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Western Coal Mining Plans Reversed

WildEarth Guardians Wins Appeals, Climate Spared

Denver—In response to appeals filed by WildEarth Guardians, coal mine expansions in Wyoming and Colorado were overturned this week, protecting the climate and western public lands.

“We can’t mine our way to a safe climate,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director.  “It’s time to keep our coal in the ground and move to cleaner, healthier, and more affordable forms of energy.”

At the end of 2015, the Obama Administration’s Bureau of Land Management approved industry demands to lease publicly owned coal in northwest Colorado and southern Wyoming. 

Peabody Energy had requested a 310-acre lease that would add 340,000 tons of coal to its Foidel Creek mine outside of Steamboat Springs.  Pacificorp had requested a 120-acre lease that would add 738,000 tons of coal to its Jim Bridger mine outside of Rock Springs.

The Foidel Creek mine fuels the nearby Hayden coal-fired power plant and the Jim Bridger mine fuels the Jim Bridger coal-fired power plant.  Not only did the leases promise to open the door for more than a million tons of publicly owned coal to be mined, they would have allowed the companies to mine millions of tons of adjacent privately owned coal.

WildEarth Guardians filed administrative appeals of the coal lease approvals, calling on the Washington, D.C.-based Interior Board of Land Appeals to reverse the approvals.  On August 25, 2016, the Board ruled in favor of Guardians, holding the leases were illegally approved by the Bureau of Land Management. 

The rulings come on the heels of earlier win by WildEarth Guardians where the Interior Board of Land Appeals overturned a coal lease in western Colorado that would have expanded Bowie Resources’ Bowie Number 2 mine.  The rulings also follow a string of successful lawsuits filed by WildEarth Guardians’ overturning coal mining approvals in Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico. 

The rulings this week also come as the Obama Administration is moving to reform its management of publicly owned coal.  More than 40% of all coal produced in the U.S. comes from publicly owned deposits, mainly in the western U.S.  The mining and consumption of this coal produces 11% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  The reform push comes amid mounting scandal and controversy over the federal coal program.

“These rulings underscore how the management of our coal has been wildly out of step with the interests of the American public,” said Nichols.  “Thankfully, these illegal coal mining approvals have been thwarted, giving us an opportunity to chart a new path toward keeping our coal in the ground.


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