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Courts Raising Climate Bar on Coal Production

The BLM has been asked to quantify how much CO2 would be released by mining projects in its Environmental Impact Statements. (Pixabay)
The BLM has been asked to quantify how much CO2 would be released by mining projects in its Environmental Impact Statements. (Pixabay)
November 3, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – At least 30 coal workers could get to keep their jobs after a U.S. District Court ruled this week that Signal Peak Energy can continue operations near Billings, Mont.

The decision allows Signal to mine 170,000 tons of coal, but the company can't move it or sell it until the Bureau of Land Management completes a court-ordered assessment of the climate impacts of extracting, transporting and burning the coal.

Connie Wilbert, director of the Sierra Club's Wyoming Chapter, says courts are starting to take a longer-term look at fossil-fuel production on public lands.

"The courts are now agreeing with us, in saying that the BLM has to be honest with the American public about what they're doing," she says. "Be honest about the true impacts that mining this amount of coal would have."

In September, a federal appeals court ruled that the BLM's environmental assessment for leases in Wyoming's Powder River Basin did not adequately address the emissions from burning nearly two-billion tons of coal.

A similar decision was reached in April by the D.C. District Court of Appeals. The Wyoming Mining Association has said getting leases approved is hard enough already, and the rulings could lead to more court cases blocking operations.

Wilbert explains the Sierra Club and others filed suit because the BLM's initial analysis claimed the Powder River Basin leases would have no negative effects on the environment. Wilbert promises her group will continue to monitor the BLM's environmental assessments.

"And we'll also continue to do what we can - which is a lot, actually - to help move our whole country towards a cleaner energy future that's based on renewable energy, not fossil fuels," she adds.

The BLM is accepting public comments on the proposed expansion of the Bull Mountain Mine north of Billings until Nov. 20.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY