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Environment & Energy Report

Climate, Water Effects of Mine Expansion Ignored, Groups Say (1)

Nov. 19, 2019, 6:55 PMUpdated: Nov. 19, 2019, 8:57 PM

The federal government failed to take into account greenhouse gas emissions and water contamination when it approved a 6,500-acre expansion of a strip mine in eastern Montana, environmental groups say.

The Interior Department and the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement violated the National Environmental Policy Act in approving the expansion of the Rosebud mine, owned by Westmoreland Rosebud Mining, LLC, the groups said in a Nov. 18 complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana.

The complaint alleges the government failed to take into account the major adverse impacts to surface waters from additional mining waste-related discharges, and the draw down of water from the Yellowstone River in connection with burning the coal at the nearby Colstrip Power Plant. Also not adequately considered were the climate-change worsening impacts of over 100 million tons of greenhouse gases that will be emitted from burning coal in the expanded area, the groups say.

A spokeswoman said the Interior Department has complied with all applicable federal law, and fully analyzed and disclosed the environmental impacts of the proposed expansion.

“It should come as no surprise that a group— whose fundamental policy preference is to oppose all coal mining—would oppose the department’s effort to strike a balance between the protection of the environment and agricultural productivity, while supporting high paying energy jobs that help power our nation’s economy,” the spokeswoman said.

The plaintiffs are the Montana Environmental Information Center, Indian People’s Action, 350 Montana, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians.

Cause of Action: National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370(h); Administrative Procedure Act.

Relief: Declaratory and injunctive relief, attorneys fees, costs and expenses.

Attorneys: Western Environmental Law Center and Sierra Club represent the plaintiffs.

The case is Mont. Envtl. Info. Ctr. v. Bernhardt, D. Mont., 19-cv-00130, 11/18/19.

(Revised to add links to docket and complaint.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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