Murray Wins EPA Lawsuit

A U.S. district judge has ruled in favor of the coal industry and producer Murray Energy Corp. (MEC) in its 2014 suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its administrator, Gina McCarthy, ordering the agency to evaluate the impact its enforcement of the Clean Air Act has had on job losses across the coal community. Judge John Preston Bailey ruled in early October in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia via a 64-page decision that the EPA failed to comply with the Clean Air Act of 1971, specifically Section 321(a), which requires continuous consideration of job losses and displacements caused by implementation of regulations. Much of those efforts on the part of the EPA have been dubbed the “War on Coal” and have taken with them thousands of miners’ jobs across the U.S.

Murray, who sued the agency in March 14 on behalf of all of his subsidiaries, was able to argue successfully that those losses were at the hands of the EPA because it did not follow the rules of the act. The agency had until October 31 to submit a “plan and schedule for compliance with [Section] 321(a) both generally and in the specific area of the effects of its regulations on the coal industry” to the court. “It would be an abuse of discretion for the EPA to refuse to conduct a Section 321(a) evaluation of the effects of its regulations on the coal industry,” he wrote in the order. “EPA cannot redefine statutes to avoid complying with them.”

EPA spokesperson Monica Lee told several national media outlets that the agency is reviewing the decision.

MEC Founder and President Robert E. Murray celebrated the suit’s outcome. “The Obama EPA has never complied with this law, and this ruling, today, will finally force them to continuously conduct these vitally important jobs analyses,” Murray said. “This is a great day for coal miners in the United States, and for all citizens who rely on low-cost electricity in America.” Murray called the regulations “senseless and destructive” and pointed out that at least 411 coal-fired power facilities across the country—totaling about 101,000 megawatts of electric power—have either already been closed or have been identified for closure by the EPA.

The National Mining Association (NMA) also hailed the court’s decision. “America’s coal miners scored an important victory today when a federal court told EPA that it could no longer ignore its ongoing responsibility under the Clean Air Act to evaluate the job losses arising from its stream of regulatory actions,” NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn said. “The court properly rebuked EPA for representing that it sufficed for the agency to merely predict impacts but it was under no duty to later verify the actual outcomes. MEC has performed a great service not only for coal miners but all American workers whose jobs are imperiled by unbalanced regulations imposing great costs with little if any measurable benefit.”

Kemper Coal-gasification Plant Generates Power

Mississippi Power’s Kemper coal gasification facility has produced its first batch of power, putting it one step closer to coming online. Company officials said that the milestone was achieved October 12, and it is now eyeing an in-service date on or before November 30. It will be supplied in part with the state’s lignite. In the meantime, it will continue in the start-up phase with testing to include syngas, natural gas, or a combination of both. This also includes production of electricity by the project’s second gasifier and operating both combustion turbines using all syngas.

Mississippi Power’s new Kemper coal gasification plant will enter service by late November.

Once online, the facility in Gulfport will be the newest large-scale U.S. power plant using integrated gasification combined cycle (ICGG) technology. “The generation of electricity using syngas is just the latest example of our company’s commitment to deliver on our promise that Kemper will provide Mississippi Power customers with safe, reliable energy for decades to come,” Mississippi Power Chairman, President and CEO Anthony Wilson said. “Achieving this latest milestone means that we are implementing innovative 21st-century technology right here in Mississippi.”

In the many years the 582-megawatt Kemper has been under development, it has been riddled with growing cost problems, including equipment repairs, as well as opposition issues. Earlier this year, Southern Co.—parent company of Mississippi Power—estimated the price tag at about $7 billion. One initial cost estimate was about $2.8 billion.

Anglo American Completes Callide Sale

Anglo American has completed the sale of its interest in the Callide thermal coal mine in Queensland, Australia to Batchfire Resources Pty Ltd, following the announcement of the share sale agreement on January 20, 2016. Callide consists of an open cut thermal coal mine and associated processing infrastructure that produced approximately 7.9 million metric tons (mt) of coal in 2015 (and 5.5 million mt in the first nine months of 2016), the majority of which were sold to two adjacent power stations under long term contracts. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.