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EPA asks court to stop Murray Energy lawsuit costing public 'millions'

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EPA asks court to stop Murray Energy lawsuit costing public 'millions'

The U.S. EPA has asked a federal judge to either rule it hasfulfilled its mission to assess the jobs impact of Clean Air Act regulations ororder it to do so in a case brought by a leading coal producer.

A memorandum supporting the motion says the lawsuit brought byMurray Energy Corp. iscosting "millions of dollars of public funds" to respond to requests for documentsand depositions in the case. A trial is currently scheduled to start July 19, butthe EPA hopes the court can issue a summary judgment on the matter.

The EPA claims in a filing with the U.S. District Court for theNorthern District of West Virginia that it has conducted continuing evaluationsof job losses, but even if the court finds those efforts deficient, the EPA is entitledto a summary judgment that would merely order them to complete that nondiscretionaryduty.

In its filing, the EPA noted the matter has been "extremelytime-consuming and costly" for the agency. It has dedicated five attorneysto manage and work on EPA's response to the case and "dozens of EPA staff haveconducted hundreds of hours of document review" to respond to discovery .

The filing states that by the end of October 2015, with fivemonths of discovery remaining, EPA had obligated more than $1 million to obtaincontract attorneys to assist on the case. Also by mid-October 2015, the agency hadallocated approximately 217 employees from the EPA, U.S. Department of Justice andthree contractor firms working the equivalent of 311 40-hour work weeks relatedto the litigation.

Though Murray's attemptto depose EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was denied by the court, the company has interviewed seven currentor former EPA employees in preparation for a trial.

The EPA has also conducted a counter discovery and asserts Murrayhas failed to adequately demonstrate harm from EPA actions.

"In short, plaintiffs' alleged economic injury from thereduced market for coal is not limited to entities within the United States subjectto EPA regulations; instead, it involves any and all plausible participants withinthe global supply-and-demand chain for coal during an unspecified time period,"the EPA filing states. "Such an amorphous and ill-defined injury to a globalindustry is neither concrete nor particularized."

The EPA filing notes that "an infinite set of independentcauses" the plaintiffs themselves have pointed out are affecting coal marketsand a court order would not redress those issues.

Murray's complaint alleges the EPA has failed to adequately assessemployment impacts of regulations promulgated under the Clean Air Act. They haveargued that "tens of thousands of employees" have lost their jobs dueto EPA actions.

The case is Murray Energy Corp. et al. v. GinaMcCarthy et al. (5:14-cv-00039).