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Montana Environmental Information Center v. U.S. Office of Surface Mining

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20101
Nos. CV 15-106-M-DWM, (D. Mont. , 08/14/2017) (Molloy, J.)

A district court halted the expansion of a Montana coal mine approved by the Surface Mining Enforcement Office for violations of NEPA. In 2008, a coal company requested approval of a mine expansion in the Bull Mountains to extract coal owned by the federal government. In 2011, BLM prepared an EA to analyze the potential environmental impacts of the expansion and issued a FONSI. In 2013, the coal company requested permission to further expand the mine from the Enforcement Office, which approved the expansion after conducting an EA. The expansion was challenged by environmental groups, who alleged that the Enforcement Office failed to conduct an EIS; the Enforcement Office claimed that an EIS was not warranted in this case. The court held that the Enforcement Office failed to take a hard look at the indirect and cumulative effects of coal transportation and coal combustion; failed to take a hard look at foreseeable greenhouse gas emissions; and made a decision without sufficient consideration of the need to produce an EIS despite significant uncertainty about the critical issues.