A U.S. district judge ruled Friday that government officials in Wyoming and Montana must consider measures to reduce coal mining during the planning stages of regional coal mine development, rejecting the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's desire to instead address the issue only on an individual basis, in an effort to fight climate change.
Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls, Montana, applies to the Powder River Basin, where house-sized dump trucks haul loads mined around the clock from open-pit coal mines. Some of the mines measure more than a mile wide.
Coal mined from Powder River Basin mines and burned in power plants is responsible for 13 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Environmentalists were thrilled with the ruling, despite the judge's decision to allow mining operations to continue.
“For decades, the federal government has kept their head in the sand over the climate impacts of fossil fuel extraction on public land,” Mike Scott with the one of the six plaintiffs, the Sierra Club, said in a release. “This ruling is the latest example of courts forcing the federal government to be honest with the American public about how coal, oil and gas leasing is contributing to the growing impacts of climate change.”