On October 19, the Northern District of West Virginia handed a victory to Murray Energy by requiring EPA to conduct continuous economic evaluations of its regulatory implementation of the Clean Air Act.

In its lawsuit against EPA, Murray invoked a rarely used provision of the Act—Section 321(a)—which states that EPA “shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of [the Clean Air Act] and applicable implementation plans.” EPA’s defense to the court was that the impact analyses developed in support of most of its individual rulemaking actions are enough to satisfy the provision. However, the court rejected that claim and required EPA to do more than just justify each rule one at a time.  Instead, EPA must conduct “contin[uous] evaluations” as to the economic ramifications of the Agency’s entire collection of air regulations, according to the court.

The statutory provision only involves information-gathering, but should specifically help shed further light on the impacts of EPA’s many recently adopted air quality regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan. EPA must create a plan to conduct such evaluations by October 31st on which interested parties may comment until November 14th. The opinion may be found here. For questions regarding the potential implications of this case, please contact Peter Glaser or Mack McGuffey.