Subscribe

Feds seeking settlement in coal mining lawsuits

Federal officials want to join settlement talks over an environmental group’s lawsuits on coal mining’s possible climate change effects in Western states.

  • close
    A mining dumper truck hauls coal at Cloud Peak Energy's Spring Creek strip mine near Decker, Mont. in 2013. Federal officials disclosed Thursday that they want to enter settlement talks with an environmental group that sued the government over the potential climate change impacts from burning coal mined in Western states.
    Matthew Brown/AP/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Federal officials disclosed Thursday that they want to enter settlement talks with an environmental group that sued the government over the potential climate change impacts from burning coal mined in Western states.

Government attorneys have asked judges overseeing the cases to put them on hold until April 1 while negotiations take place, according to court documents and U.S. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle.

The projects combined involve more than 600 million tons of coal that companies are seeking to mine in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

Recommended: US energy in five maps (infographics)

Most of the fuel would come from Arch Coal, Inc.'s Black Thunder Mine in eastern Wyoming, one of the largest coal mines in the world. Arch declared bankruptcy earlier this year, but the mine continues to operate.

WildEarth Guardians, the group that sued to overturn federal approval for the projects, has prevailed in similar cases challenging mining projects in Montana and Colorado. As a result, the Interior Department was forced to re-analyze the impacts of mining and burning coal. No mining operations were halted.

"We're not trying to shut everybody down tomorrow, but Interior needs to understand there are some consequences here," said WildEarth Guardians' Jeremy Nichols.

The move to settle the still-pending lawsuits comes after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell last month imposed a moratorium on new sales of taxpayer-owned coal reserves.

There has been longstanding criticism of the government's coal program by some members of Congress. Jewell's Jan. 15 order called for a three-year review to address climate change impacts and determine if taxpayers are getting a fair deal in the sale of public reserves to private companies.

Hornbuckle declined to say if the request for settlement talks in the WildEarth Guardians lawsuits was tied to the moratorium.

Attorneys for the mining companies involved in one of the lawsuits asked U.S. District Judge William Martinez in Colorado to let them intervene in the case so they could participate in settlement discussions.

Besides Arch's Black Thunder, the mines in that case are Cloud Peak Energy's Antelope Mine in Wyoming, Bowie Resources' Bowie No. 2 mine in western Colorado and Peabody Energy's El Segundo Mine in northwestern New Mexico.

Two other lawsuits involve New Mexico's San Juan Mine, which was recently sold to Westmoreland Coal Co. and the Flat Canyon coal lease near Bowie Resources' Skyline Mine in Utah.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK