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EPA seeks to block chief's deposition in coal lawsuit

The Environmental Protection Agency is working to block a deposition for administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyOvernight Energy: Company officially nixes Keystone XL pipeline | Government watchdog finds failings, but no Trump influence, in clearing of Lafayette Square Democrats blast Biden climate adviser over infrastructure remarks Democrat predicts 'big fight' over carbon pricing in the Senate MORE as part of a coal industry lawsuit.

In a Tuesday court filing, the EPA asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to block a scheduled deposition in a case brought against the agency by coal giant Murray Energy Corp. 

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Murray has sued the EPA over its rules agenda, arguing that the agency doesn’t properly consider the job impact of its regulations before issuing them. It has petitioned to have McCarthy deposed in the case, something scheduled for later this month. 

The EPA has looked to avoid the deposition, and argued that a lower court has taken too long to rule on its stay request. 

The agency told the appeals court that a deposition would be out of step with previous legal rulings against deposing high-level regulatory officials. 

“Plaintiffs Murray Energy Corporation et al. did not come close to identifying extraordinary circumstances that could justify compelling the deposition of Administrator McCarthy, a Cabinet-rank officer,” the EPA wrote in its filing.

Murray’s case, one of many against EPA rulemaking from the coal company, looks to probe the way the agency considers job losses and the economic impact of its environmental regulations. 

In a statement, a company spokesman said McCarthy “has the personal knowledge necessary” to address the matter. 

“Therefore, her deposition is required and the Fourth Circuit should deny this petition,” Murray spokesman Gary Broadbent said.  

“Indeed, our founder, chairman, president and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Robert E. Murray, has already agreed to have his deposition taken in this case, and Ms. McCarthy should do the same.”

In its filing, the EPA said it has cooperated with the lawsuit, providing more than 130,000 pages of documents and depositions of “several mid-level agency officials” for the case. 

"It is utterly inconceivable that [McCarthy's] testimony could be relevant (much less necessary) to Murray’s straightforward nondiscretionary-duty claim,” the agency wrote.