- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - An Ohio-based coal operator is suing the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming that the agency has failed to comply with the Clean Air Act’s requirement to evaluate the potential impact of its regulatory actions on employment.

“The Administrator has no discretion to avoid or limit its obligation to continuously evaluate the employment impacts of EPA’s administration and enforcement of the Clean Air Act,” Murray Energy’s lawsuit states.

St. Clairsville, Ohio-based Murray Energy and several subsidiaries filed the lawsuit against EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Monday in U.S. District Court in Wheeling. The companies employ a total of more than 7,200 workers in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Utah.

The lawsuit alleges that the EPA’s regulatory actions have pressured industries that traditionally burn coal, including electric utilities, to reduce their consumption. It claims that proposed regulations developed by the agency to curtail the release of greenhouse gases would discourage building new coal-fired power plants.

The EPA said it a statement that it will review the complaint when the agency receives it.

Citing federal data, the lawsuit said the electric power sector’s consumption of coal fell 21 percent between 2008 and 2012, although it remains the largest consumer of coal produced in the U.S.

“The continued pressure on placed on the coal industry by EPA’s administration and enforcement of the Clean Air Act, combined with the Administrator’s refusal to evaluate the impact her actions are having on the American coal industry and the hundreds of thousands of people it directly or indirectly employs, will irreparably harm Plaintiffs if allowed to continue unchecked,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit asks the court to order McCarthy to evaluate whether the EPA’s regulatory actions have resulted in coal industry job losses or shifts in employment over the past six years. It also seeks an injunction barring the EPA from approving further regulations affecting coal employment until the evaluation is completed.

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