Pending lawsuits in three states could have far-reaching implications for the coal-mining industry, as the U.S. Department of Interior has been charged with too quickly rubber-stamping coal-mining operations without adequate public input or consideration of pollution impact.
Filed by the environmental group WildEarth Guardians, the lawsuits take the Interior Department to task for what is described as “a chronic failure … to involve the public and address the potentially significant environmental and economic impacts of coal mining throughout the Rocky Mountain West.” They call for the government to shut down mining operations until more complete environmental reviews are completed.
While the lawsuits deal with four specific mines, the fallout from the civil cases could be more far-reaching, due to how many mines have been approved via the same process.
“If WildEarth’s request for relief is granted … the result would be devastating economic harm to coal miners, operators and the entire industry that services coal production,” mining association attorney Stephen Bell wrote in a recent court brief, as reported by the Associated Press.
Under federal law, the Interior Department has to approve a “Mining Plan” before a company can mine federal coal reserves. The plans must demonstrate compliance with federal regulations and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), looking at how mining would impact air and water quality both now and in the future.
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