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Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration Order Opening Public Lands to Coal Leasing

Coal News - Published on Tue, 21 Jul 2020

Image Source: Pittsburg Post
A coalition of states, conservation organizations and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe have launched a new challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to open millions of acres of public land to new coal leasing and mining. Complaint, filed in US District Court in Great Falls in Montana challenges the administration’s findings that the federal coal-leasing program does not cause significant environmental harm and asks the court to reinstate the moratorium on new coal leasing.

That 2017 decision ended an Obama-era leasing moratorium that had protected public lands from new coal strip mines, and protected the water, air and climate from coal-mining pollution. In April 2019 a federal judge ruled that the decision to end the moratorium broke the law because the administration failed to evaluate the environmental harm. The Trump administration attempted to remedy that violation by releasing a widely criticized environmental assessment. The assessment looked at only four coal leases that the Bureau of Land Management had already issued and concluded the leases did not cause any significant harm to the environment. The assessment did not consider the bureau’s other coal-leasing activities over the 570-million-acre federal mineral estate, which contains approximately 255 billion tons of mineable coal.

In January 2016 the Obama administration ordered a moratorium on new coal-leasing to allow time to reform the federal program to protect the climate and American taxpayers. In just the first stage of that review, the Interior Department found that coal mining fouls the air, pollutes streams and destroys wildlife habitat on public land. Past estimates found that than one-tenth of all US greenhouse gas emissions, the pollution driving climate change, come from federal coal.

The mining and burning of coal from public lands imposes heavy air-quality and public-health costs through emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury. Scientists have called on the United States to stop new coal leasing to help prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

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Posted By : Nishith Sharma on Tue, 21 Jul 2020
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