Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Sept. 23, 2020

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States try again to block coal sales

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BILLINGS, Mont. — A coalition of states, environmentalists and American Indians on Monday renewed its push to stop the Trump administration from selling coal from public lands after a previous effort to halt the lease sales was dismissed by a federal judge.

Joined by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and several environmental groups, Democratic attorneys general from California, New York, New Mexico and Washington state filed a lawsuit challenging the administration’s coal program in U.S. District Court in Montana.

They alleged the administration acted illegally when it resumed coal sales that had been halted under President Barack Obama due to climate change and other concerns.

The case is among scores of legal challenges that environmentalists and their political allies have launched to counter the Trump administration’s push for more domestic energy production and less stringent regulations.

Interior Department spokesman Conner Swanson panned the lawsuit as a “laughable attempt” to revive an issue that the court already addressed.

Under Trump, the Department of Interior lifted a 2016 moratorium on federal coal sales and concluded they have limited environmental impacts.

“The Department is confident the court will agree that the analysis by our career experts is lawful and based on the best available science,” Swanson said.

Attorneys for the states and other plaintiffs in the case argued that the administration’s environmental review was flawed, because it was based on just four leases that were sold under Trump and did not look at hundreds of existing leases and potential future sales.

“The Trump administration has repeatedly thrown out the rule book in order to benefit super polluting coal companies. It’s not only immoral — it’s illegal, and we intend to prove it,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

Federal coal sales account for about 40 percent of U.S. coal production, primarily from large strip mines in western states including Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Utah.

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