By Graham Kilmer
A motion calling for the State of Wisconsin to intervene on behalf of Murray Energy Corporation in a lawsuit being taken against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was granted on Wednesday, April 8.
Murray Energy Corp. is the largest privately owned coal mining company in the United States. It operates 13 active coal mines in six states.
According to the March 25 motion, the State of Wisconsin is intervening on behalf of Murray Energy Corp. because of “the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to impose requirements upon the states under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.”
Liz Purchia, spokesperson for the EPA, said lawsuits like Murray’s come too early, as the rule has not even become official yet.
“We addressed the legal foundation for our Clean Power Plan proposal when we issued the proposed rule in June.
Since we have not issued a final rule, we believe that lawsuits challenging the rule are premature,” said Purchia.
The requirements being proposed by the EPA are part of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
Part of that plan is the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which is a plan to cut Carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels. According to a June 18, 2014 press release from Murray Energy Corp., “In its lawsuit, Murray Energy asks the Court to issue a writ preventing the EPA from promulgating and implementing this illegal and disastrous rule on electric power generation.”
However, the EPA finds the suggested rule to be sensible and lawful. “Courts have reaffirmed repeatedly the science, law and reasoning on which our rule makings have relied,” said Purchia. As part of the EPA’s proposal, the agency has not specifically prescribed how each state should meet its designated emission standards.
Instead they have proposed a partnership between the states and the EPA to work together to reach the goals outlined in the CPP.
“The Clean Power Plan is built on a time-tested, state-federal partnership Photos by Ariele Vaccaro established by Congress decades ago in the Clean Air Act that gives states important flexibility to design plans that meet their individual and unique needs,” said Purchia. In a letter addressed to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy dated November 30, 2014, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Cathy Stepp along with Phil Montgomery and Ellen Nowak of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, stated that the EPA failed to recognize “early” and “aggressive” actions taken to reduce carbon emissions by Wisconsin. Cathy Schulze, spokesperson for We Energies, said that the company his also encouraging the EPA to give credit for early actions taken to reduce emissions. In a December 1, 2014 letter from Governor Scott Walker to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, he noted that Wisconsin programs and investments have already produced a 20 percent reduction on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2005 levels.
According to an EPA fact-sheet on the framework of the Clean Power Plan, “To set state-specific goals, EPA analyzed the practical and affordable strategies that states and utilities are already using to lower carbon pollution from the power sector.
According to Purchia, The U.S Supreme Court “made clear” in 2008 and 2014 that GHG’s, including carbon dioxide, are pollutants and pose a threat to human health and the environment.
Thus, The EPA is “fulfilling our obligation to limit GHG emissions”. Murray Energy Corp. also stated in their aforementioned press release, “These cap-and-tax regulations will destroy millions of jobs, cripple the American economy, and cause massive blackouts in our country.”
In the EPA’s June 2014 Impact Analysis for their rules proposed in the CPP, they noted that due to the wide range of approaches that may be taken, “quantifying the associated employment impact is difficult.”
According to the EPA, the electric power sector accounts for 32 percent of total GHG emissions, and fossil fuel fired plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.