EPA: Coal job loss analysis could take over two years

EPA: Coal job loss analysis could take over two years
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could take more than two years to even plan for a court-mandated report on the job losses that its regulations have caused in coal and other industries.

The estimate came in a filing the EPA submitted late Monday to the District Court for the District of Northern West Virginia, which ruled two weeks ago that the EPA has not complied with a legal requirement to regularly evaluate job losses from Clean Air Act regulations.

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The agency told Judge John Preston Bailey repeatedly that the 14-day window he gave for it to lay out a plan to comply is far too little time.

The EPA said it would task its Scientific Advisory Board, a body of outside advisers, with formulating a strategy for the job-losses study.

It said that there are “various data and methodological challenges and questions that will benefit from the scientific and technical assistance of the Board. Such challenges and questions should be addressed by an independent and objective body of qualified subject-matter experts in accordance with the Board’s public processes.”

The board’s process would include nominating and selecting a panel for the specific task, publishing proposals in the Federal Register and multiple public meetings on the study, the EPA said. EPA officials would have to review the science board’s findings and make necessary changes.

The EPA also made clear in its Tuesday filing that it disagrees with Bailey’s ruling and it reserves the right to appeal it to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Bailey, a President George W. Bush appointee, ruled that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA a “non-discretionary” duty to study job impacts, and the EPA had not done that for decades.

“With specific statutory provisions like Section 321(a), Congress unmistakably intended to track and monitor the effects of the Clean Air Act and its implementing regulations on employment in order to improve the legislative and regulatory processes,” he wrote.

“EPA cannot redefine statutes to avoid complying with them. Nor can EPA render them superfluous or contrary to their original purpose by simply defining them to be.”