Republican members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation have filed an amicus brief in a pending case at the Supreme Court which could have big implications on the Commonwealth’s coal industry and, by extension, its economy.
The case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, deals with regulations enacted by the Obama Administration in 2010 that would impose stricter limits on emissions from “stationary sources,” such as coal-fired plants. The EPA claims this authority through a 2007 Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed the agency to regulate vehicle emissions.
The problem is that the EPA essentially re-wrote provisions of the Clean Air Act to raise the emissions threshold to 75,000 tons per year from 100 tons, which, as the Wall Street Journal recently noted, “would require some six million buildings to get environmental permits, including such grand polluters as churches and farms.”
“Recognizing that such a rule would create ‘absurd results’ like shuttering the entire economy, the EPA rewrote Congress’s numbers and adjusted the threshold to 75,000 tons from 100 tons,” the Journal explained. “EPA’s clear political purpose was to escape a large political backlash to its new rules by unilaterally limiting their reach.”
Kentucky Republicans argue that the EPA has overstepped its bounds by trying to re-write the law, thus usurping power from the legislative branch, and promulgate new rules that would hurt the coal industry.
“The President and the EPA have been misusing the 2007 ruling and subsequent regulations on automobiles to overregulate new and existing coal-fired power plants out of business, thus escalating their war on coal and Kentucky jobs, “said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who filed the brief.
“The EPA should not have used the Tailpipe Rule to further regulate coal-fired power plants. This is just another EPA power grab in their ongoing crusade to shut down our nation’s coal mines, and it must be stopped,” he added.
McConnell is joined by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Reps. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Andy Barr (R-KY). Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) also joined the brief.
“The EPA acted unconstitutionally by re-writing a statute passed by Congress,” said Massie, who represents the northern part of Kentucky. “The Constitution reserves lawmaking authority for the legislative branch, not unelected bureaucrats in the executive branch.”
“This is another example of the Administration’s repeated attempts to undermine the voice of the American people and force their anti-coal, anti-jobs agenda upon the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” he added.
Coal mining accounted for $2.5 billion of Kentucky’s economy in 2009 and employed 18,850 workers, not including ancillary jobs or economic benefits. The Journal noted that the rules could cost the United States’ economy between $300 billion and $400 billion each year.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case last year. The Supreme Court, however, agreed to hear the case in October and has scheduled oral arguments for February 24, 2014.