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Groups Challenge Trump Move To Open Coal Leases

A pile of coal.
Flickr user oatsy40 (CC-BY-2)
Coal. File photo.

A federal judge in Great Falls will hear arguments on Thursday that could stop the Trump Administration from selling coal from federal lands. Four states, an Indian tribe and environmental groups are challenging the president overturning a ban on new coal leases put in place by the Obama administration. 

Environmentalists are joined by the states of California, New York, New Mexico and Washington as well as Montana’s Northern Cheyenne tribe in the lawsuit to revive a coal leasing moratorium created under President Barack Obama.

The Trump administration lifted the moratorium in early 2017, fulfilling a campaign promise to end what it calls the "war on coal."

Jenny Harbine, an attorney for Earthjustice, will be arguing on behalf of environmental groups at tomorrow’s hearing.

“The question is whether the decision to terminate the moratorium on federal coal leasing was a rational decision based on what we know about the program’s devastating climate impacts and other environmental harms,” Harbine said.

The National Mining Association and the states of Montana and Wyoming have gotten involved in the case too, defending the Trump Administration’s decision to lift the ban.

Harbine says those states' involvement is particularly disappointing to her.

“The states of Montana and Wyoming should be taking steps to help transition mining communities to new, more promising development opportunities, rather than clinging to the dirty past of coal mining," she said.

The case will be decided by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls. He recently ruled in another case that the Trump administration must consider reduced coal mining to help combat climate change.

Maxine is the All Things Considered host and reporter for MTPR. She got her start at MTPR as a Montana News intern. She has also worked at KUNC in Northern Colorado and for Pacific Standard magazine as an editorial fellow covering wildfire and the environment.
Maxine graduated from the University of Montana with a master's degree in natural resource journalism and has a degree in creative writing from Vassar College. When she’s not behind the microphone you can find Maxine skiing, hiking with her not-so-well-behaved dogs, or lost in a book.
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