WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge affirmed the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of coal mining leases in Campbell and Converse Counties, Wyo., allowing coal companies to mine approximately 4,109 acres of land and approximately 429.7 million tons of in-place federal coal.
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Antelope Coal successfully applied for the leases, prompting lawsuits from environmental groups, including Wildearth Guardians, who claimed that the leases will encourage global climate change, which will in turn ruin their recreational enjoyment of the land.
“The fundamental problem with this theory of standing lies in the disconnect between plaintiffs’ recreational, aesthetic, and economic interests, which are uniformly local, and the diffuse and unpredictable effects of [greenhouse gas] emissions,” stated U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. “Other courts besides this one have noted the difficulties that arise when a plaintiff claims that its localized interests will be affected by agency action that supposedly contributes to GHG emissions.”
The judge acknowledged the groups’ studies that suggest greenhouse gas emissions may cause global climate change, but stated that “those studies do not establish a nexus between the anticipated GHG emissions from the leasing of WAII tracts and ‘injuries alleged in the specific geographic area[s] of concern.'”
The judge ruled that the groups have standing to bring non-climate change claims, like “gaseous, orange-colored clouds” that form from blasting out coal, but ruled that the environmental impact statement and biological assessment issued by the EPA was sufficient.
The Ute ladies’-tresses orchid and the black-footed ferret, which are found near the area of the tracts, would not be adversely affected by the mines, according to the impact statements.
According to the ruling, Antelope Coal applied to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the leases in 2005. After five years of environmental studies and hearings, the BLM formally decided to offer the land tracts for lease. The leases have been available for bidding since April 1, 2010.