It may not change anything, least of all EPA regulations and policies, but Judge John Preston Bailey of the District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ruled in favor of coal mining company Murray Energy Corp. on Monday, saying the Clean Air Act gives the EPA administrator a “non-discretionary duty” to track the potential job losses and shifts in employment from regulations written under the act. Murray Energy Corporation is the largest privately owned coal company in the United States, producing approximately sixty-five million tons of high quality bituminous coal each year, and employing over 6,000 people in six states.
The civil action suit said the plaintiffs combined employ more than 7,200 workers and comprise the largest underground coal mining operation in the U.S. The plaintiffs allege the EPA's actions have caused a reduced market for coal, which has threatened the economic vitality of the companies and their employees.
“In this case, the plaintiffs have alleged that the actions of the EPA have had a coercive effect on the power generating industry, essentially forcing them to discontinue the use of coal," the ruling said. "This Court finds these allegations sufficient to show that the injuries claimed by the plaintiffs are fairly traceable to the earlier actions of the EPA."
“America’s coal miners scored an important victory today when a federal court told EPA that it could no longer ignore its ongoing responsibility under the Clean Air Act to evaluate the job losses arising from its stream of regulatory actions,” Hal Quinn, the group’s president, said in a statement.
The legal provision at issue states that 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 this chapter.”
Job losses are frequently a side effect of EPA's rulemaking process but the EPA has been under no obligation to research or report job loss data to lawmakers who might use that information to form their decision to vote for or against an issue.
Judge Bailey ordered the EPA to file within 14 days a plan and schedule for compliance to the federal code, both generally and in the specific area of the effects of its regulation on the coal industry.