Americans who worry about President Barack Obama's seizure of what amounts to imperial power won a small victory this past week. Unfortunately, in terms of those it was intended to help, the win was too little, too late.
Among the Obama administration's first offensives in its war on coal was one targeting surface mines in West Virginia. Obama's Environmental Protection Agency selected a Mountain State mine that had been granted a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit, then retroactively rescinded the approval.
This past Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton ruled the EPA acted improperly. In effect, Walton has put the agency on a very short leash over use of water quality claims to reject mining permits.
EPA officials "impermissibly interjected" the agency into water quality issues that are states' responsibility, Walton decided.
But Walton's ruling may be of little help to the coal industry - and to tens of millions of Americans who rely on it for reasonably priced electric power.
The EPA move against surface mining was just one of several ways the Obama administration planned to hurt the coal industry. As as been noted several times, other routes of attack have included limits on coal ash, as well as planned new restrictions on virtually every type of emissions into the air that can be named.
EPA officials' action regarding carbon emissions contradicts the will of the American people, as expressed through their elected representatives in Congress.
It will be remembered that early in his administration, Obama attempted to gain enactment of a "cap and trade" scheme to harm both the coal and electric power industries. The U.S. Senate rejected that - but the EPA acted anyway.
The agency's action already is having a detrimental effect. Thousands of coal miners already have lost their jobs because demand for their product is drying up due to new EPA rules. Utilities planning to switch from coal to gas for power plants already have begun increasing rates.
So, while Walton's ruling is a welcome one for those who still believe in separation of powers, it may have come too late to reverse some of the damage caused by Obama's imperial presidency.