Not ones to rest on their laurels, the federal appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency have jumped into 2011 reaffirming their status as the most dangerous regulators in Washington.  In a bewildering reversal on Thursday, the EPA revoked a permit it issued more than three years ago for the Spruce No. 1 Mine, set for operation in Logan County, West Virginia.

Mingo Logan, a subsidiary of Arch Coal, originally obtained a mining permit from the EPA in 2007 in accordance with the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The Section 404 permit was issued after a decade of review and costly analyses, whereby the project was deemed unobjectionable.

Until now, that is.  Yesterday’s unsettling decision by the EPA is suspect for a litany of reasons.  The Waters Advocacy Coalition (WAC), which is comprised of organizations and businesses committed to preserving the CWA, has expressed its concerns in an open letter to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.  The Coalition’s foremost objection to the revocation is that it places all Section 404 permit-holders in bureaucratic limbo; if the Spruce No. 1 Mine can be retroactively declared verboten, a large swath of American industry will have to fear the same treatment.  In addition, the WAC letter notes, the EPA has no clear authority to repeal permits once they have been properly vetted:

“Since the CWA was enacted in 1972, EPA has never revoked a previously issued, valid CWA Section 404 permit. The plain language of Section 404(c) does not authorize EPA to take any action once a permit has been issued. EPA’s threatened action has no legal foundation, is not warranted on the facts and will chill investments and job creation across America.”

The EPA’s action in this matter is as devious as it is unsurprising.  As ATR has previously reported, the EPA constitutes the vanguard of excessive federal regulation that has come to characterize the current administration.  In overseeing this debacle, Lisa Jackson has allowed her agency to waste Arch Coal’s funds, jeopardize the nation’s economy, and continue one of the largest power-grabs the Executive branch has ever seen.