Judge: Agency keeps ignoring environment in coal region plan

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A federal agency has once again failed to consider possible damage to the environment caused by mining coal when setting land management policies governing a major coal-producing region in Wyoming and Montana, a judge ruled this week.

The ruling rejected resource management plans created in November 2019 by the Bureau of Land Management offices in Miles City, Montana, and Buffalo, Wyoming, that would direct the management of the Powder River Basin — where the land agency says nearly 44% of all coal produced in the U.S. comes from — for the next 20 years.

This is the second time, both under President Donald Trump, that Morris has rejected the agency’s resource management plans governing the potential use of just over 20,300 square miles (52,000 square km) of land in Montana and Wyoming. The Biden administration defended the second plan.

Those 2019 plans also failed to consider limiting the expansion of coal mines or eliminating some coal deposits from leasing eligibility, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls said in his ruling Wednesday.