A US federal court has ordered the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to reduce mining operations in the states of Montana and Wyoming in order to address concerns regarding climate change.
The case was filed by a coalition of environmental groups with the aim of persuading the court to direct the BLM to ban mining activities within the region.
The plaintiffs contended that the BLM approved the resource management plans (RMPs) without considering alternatives that would reduce the amount of coal available for leasing in each field.
It was also alleged that the BLM failed to consider measures that would decrease methane emissions from resource development.
US district court for the District of Montana judge Brian Morris said: “BLM cannot acknowledge that climate change concerns defined, in part, the scope of the RMP revision, while simultaneously foreclosing consideration of alternatives that would reduce the amount of available coal based upon deference to earlier coal screenings that had failed to consider climate change.”
The judge also noted that BLM is required to conduct new coal screening under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as well as consider the impact on climate change before deciding on the amount of recoverable coal to be made available in the RMPs.
Furthermore, BLM has been ordered to prepare the supplemental environmental analyses for the Buffalo RMP and the Miles City RMP in compliance with NEPA and Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
Western Organisation of Resource Councils member Mark Fix said: “The court’s ruling rightfully declares that the impacts of energy development should be accounted for and that the government must consider taking some coal off the table to provide for other land uses.”
BLM currently manages more than 40% of the country’s coal.