Prevent EPA’s Abuse of Power

Most of us would be furious if we applied for a government permit to do something – say, remodel our homes – then, after having been granted it, were told the bureaucrats had changed their minds and we could not proceed. Nothing about our plan had changed. We hadn’t begun work so there was no issue of not proceeding by the permit’s stipulations.

No, it was just that someone behind a government desk had decided he didn’t like our plan and would revoke the permit.

How is that possible? That is what many leaders in business and industry may be wondering this week. They have learned that, courtesy of a federal appeals court, such outrageous abuse of power is possible.

More than six years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the Arch Coal company’s request for a permit to operate a surface mine in Logan County, W.Va. Arch actually had begun work at the site when, in January 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in.

EPA officials, claiming the mine would irreparably damage the environment and threaten the health of those living nearby, revoked the Corps of Engineers permit.

Arch Coal filed a lawsuit and won when a federal judge ruled the EPA had overstepped its authority. But this week, an appeals court reversed that order, telling the EPA it could enforce its order.

Radical environmentalists who hate anything to do with coal no doubt rejoiced about the ruling. But its ramifications reach far beyond the energy industry. Unless something is done about the court order, the EPA now is free to shut down any business or industrial operation it doesn’t like, even if other federal agencies or, presumably, the EPA itself in the past, have granted permission. That is astounding, troubling power for government to have.

Both U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., in the past have introduced measures to prevent such abuse. Both men said this week they will renew their efforts on behalf of such action.

They should, and other members of Congress should agree with them. Clearly, Congress has allowed the EPA to build far too much abusive power. Now, before the agency costs Americans any more jobs, it needs to be stopped.