Federal court tosses lawsuit over BLM coal leasing in the PRB

Saying the environmental groups that brought the case lack standing, a federal judge on May 10 threw out a lawsuit that sought to force the Interior Department to impose tough new environmental standards, including on CO2 emitted when this coal is burned in power plants, on federal coal reserve leasing in the Powder River Basin.

WildEarth Guardians, the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife had in April 2011 filed this Administrative Procedure Act action against the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, challenging BLM’s denial of WildEarth Guardians’ petition seeking the recertification of the Powder River Basin as a “coal production region.” While the PRB is the largest coal-producing region in the nation, providing cheap, low-sulfur sub-bituminous coal to dozens of power plants, it was technically decertified years ago as a production region.

The environmental groups said that recertification would force BLM and Interior to impose new environmental restrictions on leasing, including the consideration of the CO2 emitted when this coal is burned in power plants. Intervening as defendants in this lawsuit were the state of Wyoming, the National Mining Association and the Wyoming Mining Association. The case was being pursued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Before the court were the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. “Upon careful consideration of the parties’ submissions, the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to discharge their burden of establishing that they meet the irreducible constitutional minimum of standing,” wrote Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in the May 10 decision. “Accordingly, the action shall be dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. The Court does not reach the merits of the BLM’s denial of WildEarth Guardians’ petition.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.