MADISON — Coal mining jobs are being lost, coal mining operations are shutting down and nobody has been hit harder than the people living in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Morrisey told members of the Madison Rotary Club on Thursday that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted a motion that blocks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing a new rule that unlawfully expands the federal government’s regulatory reach over small streams, land and farms.
“This decision is a critical victory in our fight against this onerous federal overreach,” Morrisey said. “We have said from the beginning that this new rule does not pass legal muster, and had it been allowed to remain in effect, homeowners, farmers and a host of other entities across our state would have found themselves subject to a costly regime of new, complicated federal regulations. The Sixth Circuit’s decision saves these individuals and businesses from this hefty burden.”
In granting the stay, the court described the rule as “facially suspect,” according to Morrisey.
“This solidly reaffirms our belief that we have a strong case on the merits and that the courts will ultimately strike down this burdensome regulation,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to challenge this rule’s legality in court and are confident we will prevail.”
The rule, known generally as the “Waters of the United States” rule, extends the EPA and Corps of Engineers’ regulatory jurisdiction to an untold number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches and short-lived streams or any other area where the agencies believe water may flow once every 100 years, Morrisey explained.
“It was published in the Federal Register June 29, and the agencies began enforcing the rule Aug. 28,” he said.
Morrisey said his office has been a national leader in challenging the “Waters of the United States” rule.
“These efforts have included drafting rulemaking comments opposing the rule, taking a leadership role in litigating against the rule, and seeking the stay from the Sixth Circuit,” he said.
Morrisey says 31 states and state agencies have challenged the legality of the rule as violating the Clean Water Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution.
“It also usurps the States’ primary responsibility for the management, protection and care of intrastate waters and lands,” he said. “That coalition now includes West Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the New Mexico Environmental Engineer, and the New Mexico State Engineer. This gives us some leverage.”
Morrisey said he wanted to give hope to those in Boone, Logan, Mingo, Wyoming, McDowell, Raleigh and other coalfield counties.
“This is a priority for my office,”Morrisey said. “I want to ensure West Virginia has a voice and is heard. We want to ensure all regulations are consistent with the rule of law and the EPA has the most inconsistent regulations and rules. We will continue to challenge President Obama’s power plan in court and stop the EPA from changing from a regulations agency to an energy planning agency.”
Morrisey says his office remains very busy representing state agencies, running an effective consumer protection division and is now forming a substance abuse task force.
“Our office is going steps further than just litigation,” he said. “We are doing education programs, partnerships with law enforcement and town hall meetings, just to name a few. We want to work with federal, state and local agencies and groups to come up with creative solutions to many of the problems we face.”
Fred Pace is an editor for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-369-1165, ext. 1661, in Madison; at 304-752-6950, ext. 1729 in Logan; by email at [email protected] or @fcpace62 on Twitter.