Court Sides With Environmentalists, Forces Stricter Standards On Coal And Gas Development


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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) analysis of fossil fuel rich areas of Wyoming and Montana is incomplete and must factor climate change more fully into the study, a federal court ruled March 23, E&E News reported.

The BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ruled. Several environmental groups, with the Western Organization of Resource Councils in lead, brought the lawsuit.

The agency must reassess the Powder River Basin and account for the carbon released into the atmosphere if all coal, gas and oil in the area were burned. The BLM must also consider drafting other development plans that would leave more coal undeveloped in the ground.

The Power River Basin contains enough coal to keep every active coal plant in the U.S. powered for more than a century, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The ruling affected two BLM-crafted resource management plans (RPM) that kept more than 15 million acres of federal mineral rights available for development. The RPMs covered about 10.2 billion tons of coal and made room for 18,000 oil and gas wells, according to the Sierra Club.

The BLM must adjust its analysis to treat methane emissions more significantly and consider “downstream” emissions of the coal — not just when it is pulled from the ground but also when it is used — according to E&E News.

“NEPA requires BLM to conduct a new coal screening and consider climate change impacts to make a reasoned decision on the amount of recoverable coal made available in the RMPs,” Judge Brian Morris, an Obama appointee, wrote in his decision.

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