Montana Public Radio

Judge: Resumption Of Coal Sales By Trump Admin Needs Review

Apr 19, 2019

A federal judge in Great Falls Friday said the Trump administration failed to consider the environmental effects of its decision to resume coal sales from federal lands that the Obama administration stopped. But the judge stopped short of halting future sales.

Jenny Harbine is an attorney with Earthjustice, who argued on behalf of four states, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and environmental groups to uphold the Obama coal leasing moratorium. She called the ruling a clear rebuke of the Trump administration.

"Not only was there no rational evaluation of the science, there was little more than a swipe of the pen."

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ordered government attorneys to enter negotiations with the groups that sued to re-instate the moratorium to come up with a remedy within 30 days.

More than 40 percent of U.S. coal is mined from federal lands, primarily in Western states.

The Obama administration imposed a moratorium on most federal coal sales in 2016. The move followed concerns that low royalty rates paid by mining companies were shortchanging taxpayers and that burning the fuel was making climate change worse.

President Donald Trump lifted the moratorium in March 2017 as part of his efforts to revitalize the slumping coal industry.