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President Barack Obama talks with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson at the EPA in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) President Barack Obama talks with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson at the EPA in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)  

Coal industry wins court victory amid mine closings

The coal industry won a major legal victory against the Environmental Protection Agency as a U.S. District Court ruled that the EPA’s water-quality standards infringed on a state’s authority to regulate surface mining.

“Accordingly, because the EPA has exceeded the statutory authority conferred upon it by the Clean Water Act, and because the MCIR Assessment and the EC Process are legislative rules not exempt from the APA’s notice and comment rulemaking requirements, the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment is granted, and the federal defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment is denied,” U.S. District Court Justice Reggie Walton wrote in his opinion.

The National Mining Association filed one of four lawsuits challenging the EPA guidance, along with West Virginia and Kentucky.

“Today’s decision has truly given coal miners and coal mining communities their ‘day in court’ and has affirmed NMA’s longstanding belief that EPA overreached its authority in its virtual moratorium on Eastern coal mining permits and denied those operations the protections provided for under the law,” Hal Quinn, president and chief executive officer of the association, said in a statement yesterday.

Despite the legal victory, another coal mine shutdowns was reported today and more mineworker layoffs are on the way.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that OhioAmerican Energy Inc. will close mining operations in Jefferson County, Ohio where it employed 240 workers at its peak. The company says that 32 workers will be relocated at another operation, and they anticipate the mine will gradually be closed through the fall.

The company is a subsidiary of Murray Energy, and is the second subsidiary to announce downsizing this month.

Murray Energy recently announced plans to cut 29 mining jobs at the Ohio Valley Coal Co.’s Powhatan No. 6 Mine.

Both downsizings blame the Obama administration’s coal regulations as the reason for the closing and downsizings.

“There will be additional layoffs, not only at Murray Energy, but also throughout the United States coal industry due to Mr. Obama’s ‘War on Coal’ and the destruction that it has caused to so many jobs and families in the Ohio Valley area and elsewhere,” said Mr. Murray.

“Mr. Obama has already destroyed 83,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity generation in America,” said Mr. Michael T. W. Carey, Vice President of Government Affairs for Murray Energy.

“Electric prices in the recent PJM Interconnection monthly auction were bid up 800 percent (8 times) for 2015-2016 because of this,” he added.

Murray Energy isn’t the only coal company to recently make planned layoffs because of EPA regulations.

The Intelligencer reports that Consol Energy issued a notice that it planned to lay off 318 employees at the Fola Operations in Bickmore, West Virginia, which expected to take effect on Aug. 30.

In West Virginia, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources recently announced plans to cut their workforce throughout the state.

All three companies blame EPA regulations for their closings and the downturn in coal demand.

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