The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 25, 2013

W.Va. joins greenhouse gas rules fight

CHARLESTON — Once again, political leaders in West Virginia are taking on the Environmental Protection Agency in what they perceive as a crucial court test with coal production hanging in the balance.

Specifically, the state joined two other states — Kansas and Montana — in a “friend of the court” brief, asking the nation’s highest court to hear a challenge of the EPA in regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

The brief was filed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

“This is a significant issue for West Virginia, as well as other states, because the EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions could have a devastating impact on industry, the economy, and citizens,” Beth Ryan, communications director for Morrisey, said.

The three states maintain the EPA’s so-called “tailoring rule” contracts specific provisions of the Clean Air Act and sets new compliance levels that are much greater than the levels outlined in law.

“The EPA’s proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions threaten the livelihood of our coal miners to the point of killing jobs and crippling our state and national economies, while also weakening our country’s efforts toward energy independence,” Tomblin said.

“I hope the high court recognizes the urgency and critical importance of our brief for all Americans.”

Tomblin had coined the oft-used phrase “war on coal” in his first State of the State address, vowing it was one in which West Virginia ultimately would prevail over the federal agency.

While one federal court agreed the EPA had overstepped its authority in a suit Tomblin brought involving the Clean Water Act, an appeals court held that the agency was within its legal scope to retroactively cancel a mining permit issued years earlier for the Spruce mine, a 2,300-acre mountaintop installation in Logan County.

That triggered a predictable avalanche of rebuke not only from industry but members of Congress.

Morrisey and Tomblin said a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in favor of the EPA in four consolidated case involving gas emissions, if not reversed, would “fundamentally alter” the Constitution’s separation of powers and extend unbridled authority to not only the EPA but other federal agencies.

“The EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in this way will have a devastating impact on the industries that must comply with these rules, as well as consumers,” Morrisey said.

“Once again, the EPA is moving ahead on an issue with little regard for the plain language of the statute and the people who are directly impacted by these incredible new burdens.”

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