WildEarth seeks court review of EPA refusal to limit coal mine emissions

WildEarth Guardians filed a notice of appeal July 9 at the U.S. Court for Appeals for the D.C. Circuit of an April decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to regulate coal mine emissions under the Clean Air Act.

The notice did not provide any details on the basis of the appeal; that will come later. Attached to the notice is a May 8 Federal Register notice which EPA called a “Notice of Final Action on Petition From Earthjustice To List Coal Mines as a Source Category and To Regulate Air Emissions From Coal Mines.”

Also attached is an April 30 letter to the environmental group from EPA that said in part: “I am informing you that the EPA is denying this petition to add coal mines to the Clean Air Act section 111 list of categories and declining to initiate the requested rulemakings at this time. This denial fully and finally responds to your petition and is the EPA’s final agency action on your petition. As discussed below, the agency must prioritize its regulatory actions. This is especially the case in light of limited resources and ongoing budget uncertainties. For these reasons, the EPA at this time cannot commit to conducting the process to determine whether coal mines should be added to the list of categories under Clean Air Act 11l(b)(l)(A) and thus is denying your petition.”

The EPA letter added: “This denial is not based on a determination as to whether the emissions from coal mines cause or significantly contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare. In the future, the EPA may initiate the process for such a determination, but the agency has decided that it will not do so now.”

Methane, which is trapped in coal and released when it is mined, is the particular focus here. Methane is considered, pound for pound, a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. WildEarth Guardians, among other things, has also tried for years in federal court to force the federal government to take into account greenhouse gas emissions when coal produced from federal lands is burned, but so far without success.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.