Murray Energy asks courts to force US EPA to look at job loss - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Murray Energy asks courts to force US EPA to look at job losses resulting from regulatory decisions

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Murray Energy has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for what it describes as EPA's "illegal promulgation of senseless and destructive regulations, with absolutely no regard for their job and family destruction," company officials said Monday, March 24.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to review a federal appeals court ruling that found EPA within its authority to retroactively veto a strip mining permit issued to Mingo Logan Coal Co. four years earlier by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That case now goes back to a federal district court in Washington.

The Murray suit states that over the past five years, EPA has administered and enforced the Clean Air Act "in a manner that places immense pressure on the electric generating sector — and other industries that traditionally burn coal — to reduce their consumption of coal" by imposing costly regulations that make closing a coal-burning facility the most cost-effective option for utilities, engaging in enforcement activities "that discourage the repair and continued operation of existing coal-burning facilities" and developing regulations that deter utilities from building new coal-burning facilities.

Since 2010 nearly 400 coal-fired plants have closed or been converted to other fuels because of EPA regulations and enforcement, and more than 17,000 industry jobs have been lost over the past two years, the suit said.

"... Administration and enforcement of the Clean Air Act has caused or contributed to the loss of tens of thousands of coal mining jobs over the past five years," the suit said.

EPA officials, asked to comment, said only that the agency "will review the complaint when we receive it."

Officials at Murray, however, insist the Clean Air Act, as passed by Congress and signed into law, clearly requires that EPA consider job losses in its regulatory decision.

"It has never complied with this law," they said, adding that the lawsuit asks the court to force EPA "to do what Congress told the agency to do so many years ago."

Murray accused EPA of waging a "disastrous war on coal," and wants to court to force administrators to evaluate the nationwide impact their regulatory decisions have had on jobs and "publicize the true costs of the failed environmental policies enacted by the Obama Administration."

"Indeed, over the past several years, the Obama EPA has waged an all-out War on Coal, promulgating a series of rules and regulations seeking to eliminate the United States coal industry, and the very good jobs, and low cost electricity, which it provides," the company said in a statement released Monday morning. "Indeed, the lives and livelihoods of entire families in many regions of America are being destroyed. Further, there will be virtually no environmental benefit from these radical EPA regulations."

The company said at least 392 coal-fired electric power plants in America have closed or been identified for

closure by the EPA under the Obama administration.

"This is a loss of about 100,000 megawatts of lowest cost electric power available across the country," the statement said. "Further, thousands of coal miners have been put out of work, and their families are suffering. In filing this lawsuit against the Obama EPA, Murray Energy is fighting to protect these workers, who only want to earn a living in honor and dignity.

"The company also seeks to protect low cost electricity for all Americans, including those on fixed incomes and for American manufacturers of products which must compete in the global marketplace."

Gary M. Broadbent, assistant general counsel and media director for Murray Energy, said they felt they had no choice but to file suit "after the EPA completely failed to respond to our notice letter."

"The Clean Air Act is crystal clear in requiring the EPA to evaluate the negative impact that their regulations will have on jobs, but they have repeatedly been derelict in their duty." Broadbent said. "We must defend these jobs, families, and America, and force the EPA and President Obama to comply with the law."

The company said additional lawsuits will be forthcoming but declined to discuss them at this time.

"This is just the first of several actions that we have undertaken to protect the livelihoods of coal miners and their families and to preserve low cost electricity in our Country," Broadbent said. "The illegal actions of the Obama EPA are a very human issue to the management and ownership of Murray Energy."

Murray Energy is one of the largest employers in the U.S. coal industry, providing more than 7,200 jobs and operating 13 active coal mines in six states.