CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office has filed a petition to protect West Virginia coal jobs by demanding the federal government clarify onerous regulations that stymie the production of steel.
Morrisey says domestic steel production is crucial to ensuring a market exists for a specific type of West Virginia coal. But, he says vague regulations jeopardize its continued success as steel producers face steep and unnecessary costs to properly maintain blast furnaces and other equipment.
Thousands of West Virginia coal jobs are required to produce the millions of tons of metallurgical coal necessary to fuel steel production at a blast furnace in Ashland, Kentucky, and 12 others located in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“Federal regulations must be clear, concise and take into account economic impact,” Morrisey said. “Economic success cannot thrive with the inconsistent, case-by-case application of rules and, in this case, West Virginia needs legal certainty to protect coal jobs and the livelihoods of those who depend upon coal’s success.”
The April 18 filing asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clearly define the terms “routine maintenance, repair and replacement.”
For example, a steel mill’s furnace chamber regularly requires a new lining because of wear and tear. Yet, Morrisey's office says the Obama EPA previously claimed these jobs were subject to "a more onerous and costly process typically reserved for new or modified facilities. ... The more stringent standard, known as New Source Review, makes ordinary repairs cost prohibitive and could ultimately force a shutdown of the equipment."
Morrisey's proposed rule would prevent future overreach by defining the precise scope of the terms “routine,” “maintenance” or “repair.” In a twofold solution, it would clarify the methodology used to determine both when work is “routine” and when it is “maintenance [or] repair.”
The AG's office says the EPA’s shifting definitions of “routine maintenance, repair and replacement,” as well as its inconsistent, case-by-case handling of construction or upkeep projects, led Morrisey, in part, to petition for the proposed rule.
"Such a rule would advance President Trump’s goal of revitalizing domestic steel and protect demand for West Virginia’s high-grade, metallurgical coal," Morrisey said.