A federal judge ruled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must study how many coal industry workers have been laid off due to federal environmental regulations.
U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey gave EPA two weeks to come up with a way to measure job losses from air pollution regulations, including a special analysis of how these regulations impact the coal industry.
“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,” Bailey ruled.
“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,” he wrote in his 64-page opinion.
It’s a big legal victory for the coal industry, which has been in decline for years due to Obama administration regulations, competition from cheap natural gas and a wave of environmentalist lawsuits.
“This is a great day for coal miners in the United States, and for all citizens who rely on low-cost electricity in America,” Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray said of the ruling.
“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,” said Murray, whose company was a plaintiff in the suit.
The suit was brought by a group of coal companies that employ 7,200 miners, reports the Times West Virginian. The companies argued EPA was violating the Clean Air Act by not taking into account the employment effects on the coal industry.
EPA argued “any injury caused to the plaintiffs would only be traceable to earlier EPA actions, not the failure of the EPA to conduct evaluations of job loss,” the Times reported. Bailey disagreed and sided with the coal companies.
More than 12,000 coal miners have lost their jobs in the last year, according to federal employment data. Many in the industry have blamed the EPA for their misfortune, and coal country has largely thrown its support behind Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“Hillary Clinton wants to put all the miners out of business. There is a thing called clean coal,” Trump said during the second presidential debate.
EPA is reviewing the order, and may appeal the decision to a higher court, according to Politico. EPA has had some success getting lower court decisions overturned in the 4th Circuit.
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