Energy

Judge Slams EPA For Ignoring Federal Law — They ‘Must Obey It’

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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A federal judge is ordering the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to quickly figure out how many coal mining jobs were destroyed because of federal regulations — a requirement the agency has apparently ignored for decades.

U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey in West Virginia ruled Wednesday after EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said it would take a minimum of two years to come up with a way to count coal job losses.

McCarthy also said no administration since 1977 has interpreted federal law to require calculating coal job losses from regulations. Judge Bailey disagreed.

“This response is wholly insufficient, unacceptable, and unnecessary,” Bailey wrote, according to Fox News.

“EPA does not get to decide whether compliance with (the law) is good policy, or would lead to too many difficulties for the agency,” Bailey wrote. “It is time for the EPA to recognize that Congress makes the law, and EPA must not only enforce the law, it must obey it.”

Bailey initially ruled on this matter in October, 2016, when he sided with a coalition of coal companies arguing EPA violated the Clean Air Act by not tallying job losses at coal mines and power plants due to regulations.

Mining companies hailed the ruling. Now, the EPA has to produce official estimates of jobs lost in the coal industry. The industry has contracted in 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 October ruling. Murray Energy was one of the companies suing EPA.

Bailey said McCarthy’s response “evidences the continued hostility on the part of the EPA to acceptance of the mission established by Congress.” EPA has until July 1st to identify mines and plants impacted by agency rules during President Obama’s tenure.

U.S. coal production took its biggest plunge ever recorded in 2016, falling 17 percent from the year before. The government has coal production records going back to 1949.

EPA regulations are a major driver of coal plant closures. Low-priced natural gas has also played a big role, especially in conjunction with federal rules.

When Obama took office in January 2009, there were about 86,200 coal miners. There were only about 54,500 by December 2016, according to federal data.

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