A federal judge ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers yesterday to stop allowing coal companies to deposit tons of dirt and rock from their mountaintop-removal mining operations into streams and valleys. U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II in Charleston, W.Va., also said a move by the Bush administration last Friday to make the “valley fills” legal violated the Clean Water Act. He wrote in his decision, “The agencies’ attempt to legalize their long-standing illegal regulatory practice must fail. … The regulators’ practice is illegal because it is contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Clean Water Act.” A spokesperson for the U.S. EPA, which worked with the Corps on the rule change, said the agency would seek a stay of the ruling pending an appeal. The judge’s decision was a win for the group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, but some enviros warned that the victory was not yet decisive. Haden issued a similar ruling in 1999, but an appeals court later overturned it on jurisdictional grounds.
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