Citing global warming, environmental groups are asking a federal judge to call a halt in Wyoming to one of the largest coal-mining plans ever approved by the U.S. government.
In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians said the federal Bureau of Land Management failed to consider the impact of greenhouse gases that will be emitted when coal from four government mineral leases in Wyoming is burned in power plants across the nation and in Asia.
The leases contain roughly 2 billion tons of coal in the Wyoming portion of the Powder River Basin, a geologic region in northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana that produces about 40 percent of the country’s coal.
Environmentalists are arguing that the BLM broke federal laws and agency rules by neglecting to analyze fully the global impact from the release of carbon dioxide and other pollutants by power plants, mostly in the Midwest, that will burn coal from the four leases.
They say those leases represent one of the largest coal-mining plans ever sanctioned by the federal government.
The groups want a federal judge to suspend the government’s plan to lease and mine coal from the tracts at least until the BLM completes a supplemental analysis on the environmental impacts.
“The BLM itself has estimated that for every one ton of Powder River Basin coal burned, 1,659 metric tons of carbon dioxide are released,” said Connie Wilbert, head of the Wyoming chapter of the Sierra Club. “We have to start addressing this problem now, we can’t keep doing business as usual.”