COAL: States sue Trump admin for ending lease moratorium

Source: Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Four states sued the Trump administration today for lifting an Obama-era moratorium on federal coal leasing.

California, New York, New Mexico and Washington filed suit this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. They are challenging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decision to scuttle a broad Obama-era review of the coal leasing program.

The Obama administration froze coal leasing in January 2016 to conduct a programmatic environmental impact statement to update a 1979 analysis governing leasing on public lands.

Zinke ordered that federal coal leasing be restarted in March. His directive came a day after President Trump signed his “energy independence” executive order to promote domestic energy production.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe and several environmental groups filed a separate lawsuit challenging the action in March, arguing that it violated the National Environmental Policy Act (Greenwire, March 30).

The state of Wyoming has moved to intervene in that lawsuit on the Trump administration’s side. Most federal coal leasing takes place in the Powder River Basin, which straddles Montana and Wyoming.