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Environmental Groups Challenge BLM Coal, Oil Management Plan

Boyd Norton
Wikimedia commons

Environmental groups on Aug. 27 sued the Trump Administration for allegedly breaking federal law when it finalized management plans for coal rich land in eastern Montana and northern Wyoming.

The environmental groups in their lawsuit say the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to explore alternatives to strip mining or the impacts of fossil fuel combustion when it approved management plans covering the Powder River Basin.

The lawsuit follows a 2018 decision in which a Montana federal judge ordered the BLM to conduct more comprehensive environmental reports.

Now, the environmental groups say the BLM’s changes still fall short.

Western Environmental Law Center Attorney Shiloh Hernandez, who represents the plaintiffs, says the BLM neglected to address non green house gas emissions or seriously consider alternative approaches.

“On paper, they shifted around a number of acres, but the ultimate decision was fixed from the beginning. It was going to be the same amount of coal development no matter what,” Hernandez said.

The two management plans open up three and a half million acres of surface land and over 15 million acres of subsurface mineral rights in eastern Montana and northern Wyoming to coal, oil and gas leasing.

Seven different environmental groups signed onto the lawsuit including Northern Plains Resource Council, Montana Environmental Information Center and Powder River Basin Resource Council.

In an emailed statement, BLM told YPR that it’s confident the coal leasing analysis is lawful and based on the best available science.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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