Judge: Coal Miners Must Work With Environmental Groups In Nation’s Largest Mining Territory

Powder River Basin

Mining in the Powder River Basin, where 40 percent of America’s coal is produced, could be reduced following a ruling from the U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, who determined that the Bureau of Land Management:

“…Must consider alternatives that reduce mining in the area when updating resource management plans.”

The ruling also states that coal mining companies must work with green groups when they make plans for the area between Wyoming and Montana, spanning 19,500 square miles.

Coal from the basin accounts for 10 percent of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and holds billions of tons of coal. Mike Scott, a Sierra Club official, said in a press release:

“For decades, the federal government has kept their head in the sand over the climate impacts of fossil fuel extraction on public land.”

The court ruling in the case brought by environmental groups will interfere with the U.S. Interior Departement’s plan to open up 15 million acres of public land and mineral rights to fossil fuel extraction. The plaintiffs demonstrated that the plans violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), by failing to take into consideration the impact on the environment, including the climate.

However, they failed to stop mining activities completely.

The judge ordered the Bureau of Land Management:

“…To conduct new coal screening and consider climate change impacts to make a reasoned decision on the amount of recoverable coal made available.”

The Trump administration may appeal the decision, and the BLM says they will review the court’s decision. In an emailed statement, the office said:

“The court upheld several aspects of the BLM’s Resource Management Plans. For the claims found to be in noncompliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the BLM is currently reviewing the court’s decision to determine the appropriate next steps.”

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a final public listening session on the Trump administration’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) on the same day. The Obama-era regulation was put in place to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The hearing was held in the heart of Powder River Basin area of Gillette, Wyoming.

ThinkProgress noted that the Powder River Basin represents the future of the coal industry. The numerous mines rely on automated machinery to strip away soil and rock near the surface of the ground, which rules out the need for actual miners.

“Despite producing 45 percent of the country’s coal, the Powder River Basin’s 16 largest mines account for just 10 percent of the country’s coal jobs.”

If the Clean Power Plan is repealed, it probably won’t lead to a significant increase in more coal jobs and only a moderate increase in demand for coal-fired electricity at home or overseas.

See more in the video from KPAX-TV below:

Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube.

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