Court Holds Up Plans For The US’s Largest Underground Coal Mine

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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A U.S. District Court judge blocked further expansion of Montana’s Bull Mountain coal mine Monday, after the court found the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) improperly reviewed the expansion plan.

The expansion would make Bull Mountain the largest underground coal mine in the U.S. based on production. The court blocked the Signal Peak Energy’s mine expansion in response to a lawsuit brought by several environmental groups accusing the OSM of favoring the mine and skewing the results of the review, according to a Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) Tuesday press release.

“A federal agency should not be allowed to put its thumb on the scale when making decisions of this magnitude,” the Montana Environmental Information Center’s (MEIC) Anne Hodges said in a WELC press release “The law requires, and the public deserves, an honest analysis of the risks and the benefits of proposals such as these.”

The agency’s review ignored the impact of coal transported by train, if communities and the environment would be harmed by new and increased use of the railways. Also, the agency did not account for the climate impact of burning 176 million tons of coal, according to the press release.

Signal Peak Energy’s mine has been hounded by similar problems and delays in the past. Signal Peak Energy has received eight letters since 2014 warning about violations to the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.

A 2013 state permit for the expansion was revoked by an oversight committee after MEIC argued the development would harm water quality in the area.

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