A federal judge has dismissed a legal challenge from environmental groups that sought to block federal coal leases in Wyoming's Powder River Basin on the grounds that burning the coal would contribute to global warming.
The Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians had challenged the federal government's sale of leases on 2 billion tons of coal. The leases are on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands near Arch Coal's Black Thunder mine and Peabody Energy's North Antelope Rochelle mine - two of the world's largest coal mines.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Washington, D.C., on Monday dismissed two merged lawsuits, saying the groups lacked standing to sue because they failed to show leasing the tracts would cause climate change that would specifically harm their membership. The groups had claimed global warming from burning the coal would damage their recreational, aesthetic and economic interests.
Kollar-Kotelly wrote there was evidence that even if the disputed tracts lay fallow, "domestic and international consumers' consumption behavior would not be materially affected and the national energy portfolio would remain unchanged."
Beverly Gorny, spokeswoman for the BLM in Cheyenne, said Thursday the leases were sold this year but haven't been mined yet. She said they're adjacent to current mining sites.
John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, N.M., said his group is disappointed with Kollar-Kotelly's ruling and plans to appeal.