Coal producer Murray Energy threatens lawsuit against EPA

Murray Energy, which leaped into the upper ranks of U.S. coal producers with a December 2013 buy of several coal mines in northern West Virginia, said Jan. 27 that it plans to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its burgeoning series of new regulations on coal-fired power plants.

Murray Energy, based in Ohio, was founded by coal operator Robert Murray, who was an active supporter of Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. The company has coal mines in Utah, western Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and northern West Virginia. The West Virginia mines came over in a recent asset buy from CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX). The company expects to produce over 60 million tons of bituminous coal in 2014.

The company said Jan. 27 that it has officially notified EPA that it will “file a lawsuit to combat the EPA’s illegal promulgation of senseless and destructive regulations, with absolutely no regard for their job and family destruction. The Clean Air Act, as passed by Congress and signed into law, clearly requires the Obama EPA to consider job losses in its issuance of regulations, and it has never complied with the law.”

Murray Energy demands that the EPA immediately comply with the Clean Air Act and evaluate the job losses caused by its “disastrous” regulations. Over the past several years, the Obama EPA has promulgated a series of rules and regulations seeking to eliminate the U.S. coal industry, and the very good jobs and low cost electricity that it provides, the company said. Among them are the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and a proposed new rule for new power plants on greenhouse gas emissions.

At least 392 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. have been closed or identified for closure by the Obama EPA, in the near future, which is a loss of about 100,000 MW of lowest cost electric power, the company added. Further, thousands of coal miners have been put out of work, and their families are suffering, said the company.

“Unfortunately, we had no choice but to file this notice and lawsuit,” said Gary Broadbent, Assistant General Counsel and Media Director for Murray Energy. “The Clean Air Act is crystal clear in requiring the EPA to evaluate the negative impact that their regulations will have on jobs, but they have repeatedly been derelict in their duty.”

The Jan. 21 notice of intent to sue, addressed to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, says: “Over the past five years, EPA has waged what can fairly be described as a war on coal, repeatedly and consistently encouraging sources to switch from coal to other fuels, to shut down coal-fired sources, and to avoid constructing new coal-fired sources, all through EPA’s administration and enforcement of the Clean Air Act. You have a nondiscretionary duty under CAA § 321(a) to continuously evaluate the employment effects of these actions but have failed to do so. Your failure to fulfill this duty prevents Murray Energy from obtaining and using EPA’s continuous evaluations of employment effects to address and ameliorate the devastating economic consequences of EPA’s actions on the coal industry. Murray Energy is therefore providing you with this 60-day notice that it intends to commence a civil action to enforce this nondiscretionary duty unless EPA has fully performed its duty within sixty (60) days of the postmark date of this letter.”

Murray Energy said that there will be further litigation resulting from the EPA’s actions, but declined to discuss that litigation at this time. “This is just the first of several actions that we have undertaken to protect the livelihoods of coal miners and their families and to preserve low cost electricity in our Country,” said Broadbent.

Murray Energy is one of the largest employers in the U.S. coal industry, providing over 7,100 jobs and operating 13 active coal mines in six states. Most of its mines, including the five bought from CONSOL, are underground operations equipped with highly-productive longwall mining systems.

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.