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Justices’ ruling may slow, won’t stop coal’s decline

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo from The Associated Press
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo from The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that at least temporarily blocks the Obama administration’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants might serve to slow some changes to the nation’s energy mix, but experts say it won’t stop the ongoing decline in West Virginia’s coal industry.

The 5-4 ruling — sought by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and by Murray Energy — blocks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan from taking effect while coal states and mining companies appeal the rule in a case expected to be heard in June by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

An appeal that would send the merits of the legal challenge back to the Supreme Court is likely, regardless of which side wins at the appeals court level.

Coal industry officials and their political supporters praised the Supreme Court’s stay.

Morrisey said the ruling “provides immediate relief for workers and businesses across the country.” Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said the stay would “give us some breathing room in our effort to protect West Virginia jobs.” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he “looks forward to the day we can put more West Virginia miners back to work.”

But other experts who have studied the mining industry’s decline and the impact of the EPA rules cautioned that coal supporters should not take their celebrating too far…

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