Dozens of EPA Staff Scrambling to Meet Coal Analysis Deadline

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By David Schultz

The EPA has laid out the resources and man-hours it will need to spend to comply with a court order on the effects its regulations have on the coal industry, and it’s also asking an appeals court to intervene soon to relieve it from having to comply with this order.

In a May 15 filing, the Environmental Protection Agency laid out how it plans to meet a federal district judge’s July 1 deadline. The agency has to complete an analysis by that date of how its air pollution regulations have affected employment in coal and power generating companies ( Murray Energy Corp. v. Pruitt , N.D. W.Va., No. 5:14-cv-00039, 5/15/17 ).

It said more than 80 EPA staffers are working on developing this analysis, which requires the agency to look at job movements on a facility-by-facility level.

The agency is hoping it will get a reprieve before July 1 from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, to which it’s appealing the lower court’s order. It filed a May 16 motion to the appeals court asking it to consider the work it’s now putting into meeting this deadline, in the hope that the appeals judges hearing the case will allow them to stop work on this soon ( Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA , 4th Cir., No. 16-02432, 5/16/17 ).

During May 9 oral arguments in the appeal, Matthew Littleton, a Justice Department attorney representing the EPA, asked the appeals judges to rule on this case as quickly as possible so it can halt work on the analysis if and when they rule in the EPA’s favor.

EPA Burden

The coal mining company Murray Energy Corp. is the plaintiff in this case. It’s been battling the EPA in court for years, arguing that the Clean Air Act requires it to regularly conduct the jobs analysis for all economic sectors.

In its May 15 filing to the lower court, the EPA makes clear it does not consider this to be a worthwhile endeavor.

The agency has identified more than 1,000 coal mining facilities that would need to be analyzed and estimates that each of these analyses could take between one to five hours to complete. This is in addition to the time it would need to spend on a secondary analysis of how air regulations affect the local economies in towns where affected coal plants are located.

Complying with the court order would “entail enormous costs to EPA and industry with little or no gain in reliable information,” the agency wrote in its brief to the lower court. Also, “EPA continues to have serious concerns about the analytical challenges associated with facility-level evaluations generally.”

Gary Broadbent, a Murray Energy spokesman, told Bloomberg BNA that the EPA’s filing “inflates the amount of effort required to complete this analysis. ... We must make certain that the EPA follows the law, which they have not.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David Schultz in Washington at dSchultz@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Connolly at PConnolly@bna.com

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