More than 80 miners are facing possible layoffs after a Montana mine’s plans for expansion were halted by a U.S. District Court, the Associated Press reports.
The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) and several other environmental groups sued the mining company Signal Peak Energy after it announced plans to tap into a 176 million ton federal coal reserve next to one of its current mines.
“There are fires burning across the state. There are super-hurricanes (in the Gulf of Mexico). Climate change is here, it’s now, it’s real,” MEIC’s Anne Hedges told AP. “We cannot continue to say we are going to ignore those impacts.”
Judge Donald Malloy sided with the environmentalists, blocking the expansion. Malloy said government officials overvalued the mine’s economic impact while underestimating its potential impact on climate change, according to the AP.
Signal Peak President Bradley Hanson is confidant the layoffs can be avoided if the court allows the expansion to go through while more environmental studies are done.
“We believe that we can avoid the impacts that prompted the court’s order and, at the same time, preserve the jobs and the economic value of this mine,” Hanson said, according to the AP.
When approving the mine, Department of the Interior officials did not account for pollution caused by transporting and burning the coal mine, according to the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SMME).
As much as 95 percent of the mine’s coal has been exported. Federal officials now need calculate the carbon footprint of shipping coal to countries such as South Korea, Japan and the Netherlands.
Several similar fuel development cases have been brought before courts in Colorado and Montana in the past. Each decision eventually sided with the expansion project after additional environmental reviews, SMME reports.
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