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Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition v. United States Army Corps of Engineers

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20122
Nos. 14-2129, (4th Cir., 07/08/2016)

The Fourth Circuit upheld the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' issuance of a dredge and fill permit to a surface coal mine. Environmental groups challenged the adequacy of the Corps' environmental review, arguing that the Corps violated NEPA and the CWA by failing to consider evidence that surface coal mining is associated with adverse public-health effects in nearby communities. But the Corps properly determined that the connection between surface coal mining and public health was an issue not properly within the scope of its environmental review. The Corps has no jurisdiction to authorize surface coal mining; SMCRA makes clear that only the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection can do that in West Virginia. The specific activity the Corps authorized was simply the dredging and filling of certain stream beds at the mine. And consistent with court precedent, the Corps properly limited its NEPA review to only those environmental impacts associated with the specific discharge of fill material authorized at the mine. Likewise, the CWA does not require the Corps to study the effects of activities beyond the proposed discharge itself. Accordingly, the court affirmed a lower court decision holding that the Corps did not violate NEPA or the CWA in granting the permit at issue in this case.