September 11, 2014 - Today a federal court overturned a coal mine expansion decision eliminating a loophole which allowed road construction for coal mining in western Colorado’s roadless public forest lands.
Judge R. Brooke Jackson of the U.S. District Court finalized the court’s June 27 decision finding that the U.S Forest and Bureau of Land Management unlawfully approved Arch Coal’s plans to bulldoze through 1,700 acres of the pristine Sunset Roadless Area for an expansion of Arch’s West Elk Mine. The order prevents mine expansion on roadless land unless, and until, the Forest service and BLM correct the legal violations, and the permitting agencies make new decisions that allow road construction for coal mining in roadless areas and permit Arch Coal to expand its previous lease.
The court’s June 27 ruling found that the Forest Service failed to disclose the climate change impacts of two decisions that allowed coal mining in the Sunset Roadless Area. The first was the mine expansion itself, which allowed the mining of 20 million tons of coal. The second was the loophole in the Colorado Roadless Rule, which allowed road construction for coal mines in the 19,000 acre roadless forest area in the North Fork Valley near Paonia. By allowing road construction for coal mines, the loophole unlocked 347 million tons of coal for mining and combustion by allowing road construction for coal mines
The District Court’s ruling today invalidates only the coal mining loophole and leaves intact the rest of the Colorado Roadless Rule, which protects more than four million acres of roadless national forest in the state. The ruling also ensures that the Forest Service and BLM will involve the public and take a “hard look” at the climate pollution impacts of any future decision prior to approving an expansion of the West Elk Mine into the Sunset Roadless Area.
This case was brought by the Sierra Club, High Country Conservation Advocates, and WildEarth Guardians. Earthjustice provided legal representation.
Link to decision.
Link to Earthjustice article.