Federal Court Rejects Wyoming, Montana Coal Mining Plan

A federal judge late Wednesday threw out two resource management plans developed by the Bureau of Land Management. Sheridan Media’s Ron Richter has the details.

Federal Court Rejects BLM Plans

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled the BLM resource management plans failed to address the public health consequences of allowing massive amounts of coal, oil, and gas production from public lands and minerals in the Powder River basin, including approximately six billion tons of low-grade, highly polluting coal over 20 years. The Biden Administration had defended the Trump-era resource management plans in the court proceedings. The court ordered the BLM to redo its analysis a second time. The ruling states that the BLM failed to comply with a previous court order directing the agency to account for the environmental and human health impacts of burning publicly owned coal and the BLM did not consider alternatives that would limit or end new coal leasing in the Powder River Basin, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The Buffalo and Miles City Resource Management Plans designate how much federal coal can be mined and burned within the planning areas.

Almost all coal mined in the region is used for electricity production, making the region the largest single-source of carbon dioxide pollution in the nation. More than 43 percent of all coal produced in the U.S., and more than 85 percent of all federal coal produced in the U.S., comes from the Powder River Basin, which stretches more than 13 million acres across Montana and Wyoming. Judge Morris wrote that “put simply, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the BLM to bookend its analysis by considering a no-future-leasing alternative and at least one alternative that further reduces leasing by reducing the potential for expansion. Coal mining represents a potentially allowable use of public lands, but the BLM is not required to lease public lands. The multiple use mandate does not bar BLM from considering a no-leasing alternative for public lands.”

In 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ordered the Trump administration’s BLM to revise its land management plans for the Miles City and Buffalo Field Offices. The judge ruled that the agency failed to consider an alternative that reduced the amount of coal available for strip-mining, failed to disclose potential harm from fossil fuel combustion and failed to disclose the short-term climate harm of methane emissions. In 2020, the BLM responded to the court’s order by revising its analysis but again failed to consider alternatives that would reduce or eliminate additional coal leasing, to account for climate change and to disclose or analyze the human health impacts of the harmful and toxic non-greenhouse gas pollutants that would result from burning more coal, oil, and gas.



2 Comments

  1. Morris was a terrible MT state supreme court justice who sided with mostly far left groups with his decisions. When he was elevated to his current position, he was the fave of extreme enviro groups who would take their petty lawsuits to him that would affect MT, WY, UT and ID. Who appointed this activist judge? Obama, of course.

  2. Consistently, the Buffalo BLM has been extremely laxed with their NEPA analyses across the board. They rarely give the no action alternative equal weight to the action alternatives and they clearly appear to be in the pocket of big business. Kudos to this judge for actually holding them to the law.

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