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Wildearth Guardians v. Zinke

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20030
Nos. CV 17-80-BLG-SPW-TJC, (D. Mont., 02/11/2019) (Cavan, M.J.)

A magistrate judge ruled in favor of environmental groups' motion for summary judgment in a challenge to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's (OSM's) approval of a coal mine expansion in southeastern Montana.The groups argued that OSM failed to take a "hard look" at impacts of coal transportation, non-greenhouse gas effects of coal combustion, and the costs of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as required under NEPA. The judge found that OSM failed to consider transportation impacts beyond the area at or near the mine, did not adequately discuss the effects of downstream coal combustion, and failed to justify its failure to quantify the economic costs of GHG emissions. The groups also challenged OSM's decision not to prepare an EIS, arguing there were substantial questions as to whether the mine expansion might cause significant impacts. Because OSM's NEPA analysis was insufficient, the judge found that the agency's finding of no significant impacts and decision not to issue an EIS were arbitrary and capricious. The judge therefore recommended that OSM correct its NEPA violations and prepare an updated EA, and that the groups' motion for summary judgment be granted in part.