By JEFFREY F. MILLER, Associated PressA federal appeals court has ruled the EPA has the authority to reopen two coal ash pits near West Virginia in an attempt to clean up the toxic sludge, but only after the EPA approves a permit application.
The ruling in a case brought by environmental groups comes in response to a lawsuit brought by the environmental group Earthjustice and a coalition of others.
In the suit, Earthjustice said the EPA’s decision to open the ponds without a permit violated the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other laws.
The EPA said in a statement that it “will carefully review the ruling and will decide in the near future if additional actions are necessary.”
In its ruling, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the decision to reopen the ponds was not based on a scientific assessment of the potential risks posed by the ash.
It said that it was not necessary to address whether the EPA was legally required to do so.
The court found that the EPA did not “show a reasonable likelihood that its actions would produce a substantial and lasting benefit to the public interest.”
The EPA said the ponds have already been cleaned up and are now fully operational.
The agency is still waiting to receive the permit.
The environmental groups filed suit in August.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in that case in October.