Thursday, November 24, 2005

Appeals court reinstates Corps of Engineers permits for mountaintop removal coal mining

A federal appeals court Wednesday reinstated a streamlined Army Corps of Engineers process for granting permits for mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overruled a lower-court judge, finding that the corps complied with the Clean Water Act.

In mountaintop mining, hilltops are blasted away to uncover coal seams, and the leftover rock and dirt are dumped into adjacent valleys, burying streams.

Last year, in a victory for environmental groups, U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin last year revoked 11 permits issued by the Corps. Among other things, he said the Corps had not followed the proper procedures under environmental protection laws.

Judges responsible for this decision are:

Paul V Niemeyer *Bush 41
J Michael Luttig *Bush 41
Robert J Conrad Jr *Bush 43

Paul V Niemeyer attended five-day seminars on property rights and the environment at resorts in Montana, sessions underwritten by conservative foundations that are also funding a wave of litigation on those issues in the federal courts.

Funding for the seminars, run by a group called the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), also comes from foundations run by companies with a significant interest in property rights and environmental law issues, Internal Revenue Service records show.

J Michael Luttig assisted Bush Admin in gaining Senate confirmation of Souter and Thomas. Luttig, a Scalia protege, is admired by many conservatives in and out of the legal profession and is considered by many liberals to be a potential threat to such causes as abortion rights.

"I think there is no question that he is the most conservative judge on the most conservative court of appeals in the country," said John H. Blume, a professor at the Cornell University School of Law who has represented condemned inmates before the 4th Circuit.

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