According to a court ruling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not required to estimate the number of potential lost mining jobs due to air pollution regulations.
The ruling came down on Thursday, June 29 from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and reverses a West Virginia judge who took the side of coal companies and determined that the EPA should report on coal mining job losses.
“A court is ill-equipped to supervise” such a complex process, the three-judge appeals court panel ruled. The Clean Air Act does not allow lawsuits to force job studies, it continued.
The initial lawsuit at the center of this case was brought forward by coal mining behemoth Murray Energy Corporation last year to force the EPA to conduct coal job surveys. At the time, Ohio-based Murray Energy, as well as other companies, argued successfully that the EPA should be required to report on potential job losses stemming from air pollution regulations.
The EPA was then controlled by the Obama administration and appealed the ruling. The judges on the appeals court of appeal were appointed by former President Barack Obama himself.
Murray Energy Corporation is the largest privately owned coal company in the U.S, producing approximately 65-million tons of coal each year, and employs over 6,000 people in six states.
Murray Energy President and CEO Robert E. Murray is a big supporter of President Donald Trump and maintains that Obama’s environmental policies lead to massive job losses in the coal industry. More specifically, his concern is power plants moving away from burning coal to generating electricity. Murray Energy plans to appeal the ruling.
Despite the recent ruling, the EPA said that under President Trump, it may decide to announce potential coal mining job losses.
“President Trump’s EPA will take the economic and job impacts of its proposed regulations into account … regardless of the outcome of this particular case,” said Amy Graham, a spokesperson for the EPA.
On the campaign trail, Trump called for an end on the war on coal that was being waged by then-President Obama. To that end, President Trump has repeatedly called for a resurgence of coal. And for good reason; four of the top five coal producing states (Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania) all voted Republican. Only Illinois went Democrat.
In March, Trump declared the war on coal was officially over after signing an executive order to sweep away Obama-era climate change regulations. Trump said it would end the “war on coal,” usher in a new area of energy production, and put American miners back to work.
In May, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, which seeks to lower carbon emission. The president said the 2015 pact forced unfair environmental standards on U.S. businesses and workers. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said.
A 2015 study found that during Obama’s first term, the coal industry lost 50,000 jobs. Another 33,000 jobs were lost during his second term.
“EPA to consider impact on jobs, despite appeals court ruling,” The Washington Post, June 29, 2017.
“White House declares ‘the war on coal is over’ as Trump begins unraveling Obama’s climate agenda,” The Washington Times, March 28, 2017.
“Trump Withdraws U.S. From Paris Climate Agreement,” The New York Times, June 1, 2017.
“Study: Coal industry lost nearly 50,000 jobs in just five years,” The Washington Post, April 1, 2015.