Sunday, November 01, 2015

Environmentalists challenging federal coal find success in court

Climate change is not mentioned in a federal magistrate's 26-page decision calling for a more complete environmental analysis of Spring Creek Mine's 2,042-acre expansion. Instead, U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby found federal officials failed to complete several routine permitting steps, like notifying the public, when they approved the Cloud Peak Energy-owned mine's expansion plans in 2012.  The decision, announced Monday, makes Ostby's ruling more narrow than the earlier victory won by WildEarth Guardians, the New Mexico-based environmental group that brought the case against Spring Creek. In that earlier instance, a federal judge in Denver found Interior officials should have considered the impact on climate of approving a Colorado mine's 6,000-acre expansion. The Spring Creek ruling is nonetheless notable, legal observers said. Environmentalists, they noted, are finding increasing success at forcing the government to change its approach to coal leases. "The courts are taking a skeptical eye of how the agencies are handling coal mining authorizations and expansions," said Justin Pidot, an associate professor of law at the University of Denver. The Spring Creek ruling should serve as a warning to coal companies and the government that "they need to be dotting there I’s and crossing their T's when they’re approving this type of project," he added. WildEarth Guardians has waged an aggressive legal campaign against the federal coal program in recent years. The group has six cases pending in which it has challenged leases granted to 10 coal mines in five Western states...more

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