Montana Public Radio

Court Hears Challenge To Federal Coal Leasing Program

May 14, 2020
Originally published on May 13, 2020 6:37 pm

A federal judge in Montana heard arguments May 13 in a case where environmental advocacy groups say coal leasing under the Trump Administration breaks federal law.

At a remote hearing the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and a number of environmental groups and states criticized the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s environmental assessment of its federal coal leasing program.

The environmental assessment in question is the result of a court ruling last year that the Trump Administration must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, in its 2017 reversal of an Obama-era coal leasing moratorium.

The Obama Administration paused the coal program to review its environmental, social and economic effects and see if it needed updating.

At Wednesday’s hearing, the Trump Administration argued its 2020 environmental review is sufficient and complies with NEPA. The environmental groups disagree.

The States of Montana and Wyoming and the National Mining Association have intervened in the case alongside the U.S. Department of Interior and the BLM.

Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls oversaw the case and has yet to issue a decision.

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