Coal Industry Scores a Major Legal Victory. Can it Hold?
A federal district has ruled that environmental regulators must consider the cost of its decisions on jobs, specifically the coal sector. While regulators are supposed to evaluate the costs and benefits to their rulings, this decision is seen as something of a blow to the Environmental Protection Agency and its pending rules on carbon.
“We will continue to vigorously pursue this lawsuit, and all of our litigation initiatives, in order to protect the lives and livelihoods of coal miners and their families, to defend the rule of law, and to preserve reliable and low cost electricity in our Country,” said Robert Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy, in a release.
“At least 411 coal-fired power generating units in America have been closed or identified for closure by the Obama EPA, which is a loss of 101,000 megawatts of lowest cost electric power available across the Country,” added Murray. “Further, tens of thousands of coal miners have been put out of work, and their families are suffering. We are fighting to protect these workers, who only want to work in honor and dignity.”
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia has given EPA 14 days to make this analysis.
The effect that the court ruling will have is unknown. But EPA’s rules cannot be viewed one-dimensionally. That is, a ruling to curb carbon may have an adverse impact on such industries as coal, but it will have a proportionate effect on sustainable fuels such as wind and solar. Furthermore, the regulatory rulings are aimed at improving human health, which would argue fewer workplace absences and more productivity, which creates jobs.
And perhaps ignored in the analysis is just what is driving the trend to lower carbon emissions: consumer demand, made possible better technologies. That is giving the cleaner fuels greater price parity. Government regulations simply come in from behind to enable the trend to continue.
The effect on jobs is a net plus: Consider that there are 150,000 coal-related jobs and of those, roughly 50,000 are coal mining occupations. That compares to 209,000 solar jobs and 81,000 in Wind energy, all in the United States. Meantime, The natural gas sector, however, is doing some of the heavy lifting, potentially creating as many as 1 million new jobs by 2025, says PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
“I want to make sure we don’t leave people behind,” Hillary Clinton said during the second debate.
The big case now awaiting a ruling is the Clean Power Plan, to be decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It has already ruled once in EPA’s favor and it is expected to make its decision in the first quarter of 2017. The ruling affects EPA’s carbon-cutting plan. The case will then likely get reheard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Those justices are now evenly split at 4-4, which means the plan would get enacted, although a bit behind its 2020 schedule.
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