The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must begin evaluating how many power plants and coal mining jobs are lost because of air pollution regulations, an analysis it hasn't done in decades, a federal judge in West Virginia on Monday ordered.
U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey ruled that the EPA is required by law to analyze the economic impact on a continuing basis when enforcing the Clean Air Act, the Register-Herald reported. The EPA argued that analyzing job loss won't change global energy trends, Bailey wrote in his order.
Murray Energy Corp. brought the challenge years ago and was joined by most of the companies mining coal underground. Thirteen states support the suit, which blames the EPA for the coal industry's declining fortunes.
Murray Energy and the coal industry heralded the ruling as a win for coal miners. The order gives the EPA two weeks to submit plans and schedules to comply with the jobs impact analysis requirements.
"The court properly rebuked EPA for representing that it sufficed for the agency to merely predict impacts but it was under no duty to later verify the actual outcomes," National Mining Association president and CEO Hal Quinn said in a statement.
The EPA said it was reviewing the decision. It's unclear if the agency will appeal.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said no administration has interpreted the law to require job impact analysis for rulemaking since 1977, the order said.
The most that the EPA does is "conduct proactive analysis of the employment effects of our rulemaking actions," but that has not included investigating power plant and mine closures and worker dislocations on an ongoing basis, the judge wrote.
The Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, said the coal industry's lawsuit meant to "deflect attention from the real reasons for its decline, like bad business decisions and increased competition from cleaner, more affordable energy sources," said Joanne Spalding, a lawyer for Sierra Club.
The group also pointed out that the ruling doesn't undue any of EPA's regulations.
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