The National Mining Association sued the agency, questioning its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act to review permits for mountaintop removal mines.
Luke Popovich is the spokesman for the NMA.
“We’re encouraged and we really think this is hopefully a sign that the EPA will take to heart, and take a long and hard look at how it’s going about trying to discourage coal mining and coal production and use in this country,” he said.
In 2009, the EPA announced it would be scrutinizing permits for valley fills, which are used in mountaintop removal. Now, 21 permits are pending, including 13 in Kentucky.
The judge’s ruling means power over the permits could revert back to the Army Corps of Engineers, which has traditionally had authority over those particular permits.
Environmental groups criticized the ruling, and say granting the permits will put air and water quality in jeopardy.