Appeals court says US downplayed coal mine’s climate impacts

Apr 5, 2022, 11:23 AM | Updated: 11:46 am

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials improperly downplayed the climate change effects from burning coal when they approved a large expansion of an underground Montana coal mine that would release an estimated 190 million tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, a court ruled.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling that Interior Department officials “hid the ball” during the Trump administration, by failing to fully account for emissions from burning the fuel in a 2018 environmental analysis.

A judge previously ruled against the disputed expansion of Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain mine in 2017, but allowed mining to continue while a lawsuit brought by environmentalists proceeded.

Monday’s ruling sends the case back to the district court level to decide the fate of the mine’s federal permit.

It marks the latest in long string of decisions against the U.S. government going back to the Obama administration for failing to adequately consider climate damages from extracting and burning fossil fuels.

The appeals court faulted the government for comparing emissions from the mine against total global emissions. That approach “predestined that the emissions would appear relatively minor,” Circuit Judge Morgan Christen wrote.

Circuit Judge Ryan Nelson disagreed, saying in a dissenting opinion that the court should have deferred to the Interior Department’s expertise after agency officials determined the expansion would not significantly affect the environment.

An attorney for environmental groups that challenged the mine expansion said the ruling could have impacts for mines across the country.

“They have to evaluate the impacts of billowing hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere,” said Derf Johnson with the Montana Environmental Information Center.

The mine near Roundup is a major employer in central Montana with about 250 workers. Its coal has been exported to countries including South Korea, Japan and the Netherlands, according to court documents.

Interior spokesperson Tyler Cherry said the agency was reviewing the ruling. Signal Peak representatives did not immediately respond to the ruling.

The Biden administration last year announced it will review the climate impacts of a U.S. coal leasing program that allows companies to mine vast reserves of the fuel from public lands. It has also priced future climate damage s from burning fossil fuels at about $51 for every ton of carbon dioxide emitted, a figure known as the social cost of carbon.

Environmentalists had sought a ruling that would compel officials to apply the social cost of carbon to Signal Peak’s mine, but the court rejected the request and said how effects are measured is up to the government.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
5 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
13 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
13 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
20 days ago
A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The cal...
Associated Press

US aims to restore bison herds to Native American lands after near extinction

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
20 days ago
Children play in a dried riverbed in Flassans-sur-Issole, southern France, Wednesday, March 1, 2023...
Associated Press

Italy, France confront 2nd year of western Europe drought

ROME (AP) — Bracing for Italy’s second consecutive year of drought for the first time in decades, Premier Giorgia Meloni huddled with ministers Wednesday to start mapping out an action plan Wednesday, joining France and other nations in western Europe grappling with scant winter rain and snow. Meloni and her ministers decided to appoint an […]
22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...
Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Appeals court says US downplayed coal mine’s climate impacts