Section 321(a) of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) contains an explicit requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) conduct “continuing employment evaluations” related to CAA implementation or enforcement.  What this means is that the EPA needs to continually do an analysis of how many jobs will be lost, if any, including whenever it considers new regulations.  This allows the EPA, Congress, and the public as a whole to evaluate whether the loss in American jobs is worth the overall benefit to American lives.  If a regulation, for example, has virtually no impact on environmental well-being, but would cost 30,000 jobs, a rational person would conclude the benefits of the regulation simply aren’t worth the cost.

Of course, most analyses are never this clear cut, which is why we need solid science and transparency from the EPA.  And that’s why Congress required it.  As we detail in our brief, EPA administrations past and present have confessed to not conducting these studies.  Similar requirements extend to a number of other environmental statutes and, to the knowledge of Cause of Action Institute, the EPA has only conducted one such study in the past three decades.  Very recently, the EPA publicly admitted this and indicated its willingness to finally comply, but hasn’t yet released any specifics.

The Murray Energy case centers on employment evaluations required under the Clean Air Act.  A federal court in West Virginia ordered the EPA to comply with the statutory mandates of Congress, castigating the agency for its willful disobedience.  The Fourth Circuit, however, sided with the EPA and ruled that Congress’ edict was too murky to be viewed as “mandatory” and was thus “discretionary.”

Murray Energy has asked the Supreme Court to reverse the court below, and Cause of Action submitted an amicus brief supporting this effort.  Our brief makes the following point: Congress specifically said that the EPA shall conduct the continuing employment evaluations.  Not may, or if something happens, or if the EPA deems it expedient, but shall.  The Fourth Circuit effectively read the mandatory language out of the statute, denying Murray Energy relief because the Circuit court believed it was too complicated to enforce.   That’s not how mandates work. We’re hopeful the Supreme Court will agree, grant review of the case, and reverse the Fourth Circuit’s error.

Eric Bolinder is Counsel at Cause of Action Institute