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The new EPA chief should obey the law

The impending departure of Lisa P. Jackson as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is welcome news for those who believe Congress should set policy, not bureaucrats.

Jackson viewed her job not as administering law passed by Congress but as the author of new policy.

In a stunning power grab, Jackson retroactively revoked water permits granted by another agency - the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - for numerous coal mine operators throughout Appalachia.

In March, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson overruled the EPA on the Corps of Engineers permits.

The judge said the agency resorted to "magical thinking" in defending its indefensible usurpation of the Corps of Engineers' authority.

That ruling was one of three instances in 2012 in which federal judges rebuked EPA for seizing powers it did not have.

The agency also ignored its own rules on promulgating rules. That point was made by state Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman, whose agency challenged the agency in a separate case.

"We knew when this first draft guidance document came out that it was wrong, that it was an illegally promulgated document," Huffman said.

Americans will welcome new leadership at the EPA only if it operates differently than it did under Jackson.

The agency is to administer the law instead of re-writing it.

The environment would be better protected by an agency that follows the rules.


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