Court orders EPA to evaluate impact of its regulations on coal industry

By Jeannine Anderson, American Public Power Association, reprinted with permission
News Editor

In an Oct. 17 ruling, a federal court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to come up with a plan for evaluating the effects of its regulations on the coal industry, and told the agency to do so within two weeks.

In the case, Murray Energy Corp. vs. EPA, the court agreed with plaintiff Murray Energy, a coal company, that the EPA is not in compliance with a provision of the Clean Air Act that requires the agency to evaluate potential job losses in the coal industry that are caused by its regulations.

Writing for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, Judge John Preston Bailey said, “This court finds that the EPA must fully comply with the requirements of Section 321(a). This court further finds that, due to the importance, widespread effects, and the claims of the coal industry, it would be a[n] abuse of discretion for the EPA to refuse to conduct a Section 321(a) evaluation on the effects of its regulations on the coal industry.”

The court ordered the EPA “to file, within 14 days of the date of this order, a plan and schedule for compliance with Section 321(a) both generally and in the specific area of the effects of its regulations on the coal industry.”

“This is a great day for coal miners in the United States, and for all citizens who rely on low-cost electricity in America,” said Robert Murray, the founder of Murray Energy. “We will continue to vigorously pursue this lawsuit, and all of our litigation initiatives, in order to protect the lives and livelihoods of coal miners and their families, to defend the rule of law, and to preserve reliable and low cost electricity in our country.”

The court argument centered around Section 321(a), which says that the administrator of the EPA “shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of [the Clean Air Act] and applicable implementation plans, including where appropriate, investigating threatened plant closures or reductions in employment allegedly resulting from such administration or enforcement.”

When it created provisions such as Section 321(a), “Congress unmistakably intended to track and monitor the effects of the Clean Air Act and its implementing regulation on employment,” Judge Bailey wrote in the court opinion. “The legislative record for these statutory provisions, as well as Supreme Court precedent, confirm this purpose.”

The EPA could appeal the Oct. 17 district court ruling to a federal appeals court. Politico reported that environmental lawyers following the case expect the agency to appeal.