OSM sued over Spring Creek coal mine in Montana

The Northern Plains Resource Council and the Western Organization of Resource Councils on Aug. 14 filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s 2012 approval of a new Mining Plan for the Spring Creek strip mine of Cloud Peak Energy (NYSE: CLD).

The lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, accuses OSM and the head of the Interior Dept. which oversees OSM, of violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedures Act in approving this plan.

The Mining Plan expands Cloud Peak Energy’s strip mine operation from 7,061 to 9,103 acres and authorizes mining of 428 acres of federal surface lands for coal, the lawsuit noted. Under the plan, the life of mine would continue for an additional 10.9 years.

“In failing to comply with NEPA in authorizing the Mining Plan for the Spring Creek Mine, Federal Defendants failed to notify or involve the public in its decision,” the lawsuit said. “Additionally, Federal Defendants failed to disclose, analyze, and/or mitigate the potentially significant impacts of authorizing a 1,117 acre mine expansion for coal extraction. Federal Defendants failure to comply with NEPA led directly to the agencies failure to analyze, disclose, and mitigate impacts to land and water resources including, but not limited to, efforts towards contemporaneous reclamation.”

Reclamation of land and water at Spring Creek is not occurring contemporaneously with strip mining operations and permanent reclamation of mined lands at the Spring Creek mine is nonexistent, the lawsuit claimed. Of the 4,059 surface land acres disturbed by strip mining for coal at Spring Creek, only 622 acres (15%) of the mine operation have been partially reclaimed and no acres of the mine have been fully or permanently reclaimed, it added.

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows that Spring Creek, located in Big Horn County, Mont., produced 7.7 million tons of coal in the first half of this year and 17.7 million tons in all of 2013.

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.