The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an order vacating a West Virginia Federal District Court decision that had held that Clean Air Act Section 321(a) required EPA to conduct an evaluation of the impact of Clean Air Act regulations on coal industry jobs. The Fourth Circuit found that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, and sent the matter back to the district court, directing that it be dismissed.
Murray Energy (and the other associated plaintiff coal companies) had filed their suit in district court under Clean Air Act Section 304(a)(2), which allows “any person [to] commence a civil action on his own behalf” when alleging a failure of the EPA “to perform any act or duty under this chapter which is not discretionary.” Construing Clean Air Act Section 304(a)(2) “narrowly,” the Fourth Circuit found that Clean Air Act Section 321(a) “imposes on the EPA a broad, open-ended statutory mandate” and leaves EPA “with considerable discretion” as to how to manage those duties. It further found that “[a] court is ill-equipped to supervise this continuous, complex process.”
The court held that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the suit because Section 304(a)(2) did not authorize Murray Energy to sue the EPA regarding its Clean Air Act Section 321(a) obligations. The court further noted that neither the Administrative Procedure Act nor the mandamus statute provide an alternative basis for jurisdiction.