The so-called “War on Coal” is going to court.
Coal company Murray Energy filed a complaint Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming that the agency failed to evaluate how air pollution regulations affected jobs in the coal industry. In the complaint, the company and several of its subsidiaries outlined how the EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Air Act placed “immense pressure on the electric generating sector” by imposing “costly regulations” that make it expensive and impractical for new coal plants to be built.
“The Administrator has continued to administer and enforce the Clean Air Act in a manner that is causing coal mines to close, costing hard-working Americans their jobs, and shifting
employment away from areas rich in coal resources to areas with energy resources preferred by the Agency,” Murray writes of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the defendant in the case.
Murray, the largest independent coal producer in the U.S., contends that the EPA has not been in compliance with Section 321 of the Clean Air Act, which dictates that the EPA “shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of this chapter and applicable implementation plans, including where appropriate, investigating threatened plant closures or reductions in employment allegedly resulting from such administration or enforcement.” The coal company claims that the EPA didn’t take job losses into account when it crafted its power plant regulations, thus violating Section 321.
“[The EPA's] actions have threatened and impeded our nation’s economy and the economic well-being of its citizens, both of which are heavily dependent upon the availability of lower-cost electricity fueled by our country’s coal industry,” the coal company’s notice of intent, which it sent to the EPA in January, reads. “EPA has taken these actions to discourage the use and production of coal without adequate evaluation and consideration of their implications for the jobs of many thousands of employees in the coal sector and many other dependent industries.”
In its complaint, Murray also refers to the EPA’s crackdown on emissions from coal-fired power plants as a “war on coal,” a term that the company — and the coal industry in general — have used many times over the last few years. In November 2012, just days after President Obama was re-elected, Murray fired 163 of its workers, citing Obama’s war on coal as the reason. Then, a few months later, Murray announced it wanted to hire the workers back after business picked up.
And though Murray presents itself as a company concerned about jobs and its workers, its record on workers’ rights has been questionable — during the 2012 presidential election, Murray workers said the company forced them to attend a rally for Mitt Romney, without pay, on a workday. Robert Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy, has said none of his company’s miners have ever died in an accident — a claim that’s not backed up by federal records, which show one foreman bleeding to death in a mine in 2001 after a conveyor belt cut off his arm. In 2007, Murray contended that it was an earthquake that caused a mine collapse that killed nine Murray Energy workers, even though scientists believe the collapse was what caused the earthquake, not the other way around.
The EPA did not immediately respond to Climate Progress requests for comment on the lawsuit.