Enviros take their case against PRB coal leases to the Tenth Circuit appeals court

WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club said Oct. 8 that they have taken the next step in their challenge to the Obama Administration’s approval of billions of tons of coal mining in Powder River Basin through an appeal filed at the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Our clean water, the air we breathe, the safety of our communities: they all depend on reversing the impacts of global warming and restoring a safe climate,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “In spite of this, the Administration is signing off on more coal mining, literally undermining our efforts to cut carbon pollution and protect our nation.”

The appeal seeks to overturn a U.S. District Court ruling that upheld the approval of four coal leases by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, which produces more than 40% of the nation’s coal. BLM, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, issued leases for the South Hilight, North Hilight, South Porcupine and North Porcupine tracts in 2012, opening the door for companies to strip mine more than two billion tons of new coal. The four leases would expand the nation’s two largest coal mines, Arch Coal’s Black Thunder mine and Peabody Energy’s North Antelope-Rochelle mine.

If all of the newly leased coal were burned, it would release more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon pollution into the air, said the environmental groups.

“When it comes to acting on climate change, the BLM’s federal coal leasing program is out-of-step with the rest of the Obama administration and has been for some time,” said Connie Wilbert, a Sierra Club organizer based in Laramie, Wyo. “If President Obama and Secretary Jewell want to leave a positive climate legacy and protect Americans from climate disruption, they need to keep taxpayer-owned coal in the ground. This administration must protect future generations of American families from the harm that opening up billions of tons of coal would cause.”

The environmental groups were responding to an Aug. 17 decision by Judge Alan Johnson out of the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming in a case initially filed in 2012. The judge said that BLM did an adequate environmental review of the lease applications under the National Environmental Policy Act and that the leasing decisions were not “arbitrary, capricious or contrary to law.”

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.