Court sides with feds and coal firms in lawsuit over federal coal leasing program

Court sides with feds and coal firms in lawsuit over federal coal leasing program

Plaintiffs Will Appeal

Bureau of Land Management has not comprehensively reviewed the program in over 30 years

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A federal court in Washington, D.C. dismissed litigation brought against the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management by Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils to require the BLM to conduct a supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on the federal coal leasing program. The litigation is supported by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

“We are disappointed in the court’s decision but we plan to appeal and continue this effort until the BLM agrees to undertake a comprehensive environmental analysis of the entire coal leasing program,” said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica. “That is what is required by federal law.”

“Forty percent of the coal burned in the U.S. is mined on federal lands under BLM leases and was responsible for fourteen percent of U.S. fossil fuel emissions over the past decade,” said Pica. “BLM’s failure to consider the implications of climate change is not only contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) it also undermines President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.”

“Ultimately, we believe that the administration’s resistance to comprehensively assess the programmatic environmental impact of the federal coal leasing program endangers the health of our local communities, fails to meet the goals of the U.S. Climate Action Plan, and is a raw deal for taxpayers,” said Bob LeResche, Chair of the Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Background: A comprehensive environmental review of the federal coal-leasing program has not been conducted by BLM since 1979. Since then, scientific evidence established that global warming pollution produced by coal mining and combustion endangers public health and welfare. The BLM, however, has never analyzed the coal leasing program’s impact on climate disruption.

A lawsuit to require the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to prepare a supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Federal Coal Management Program was filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia on November 25, 2014 by Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils. The complaint argues that the results of this analysis will compel BLM to deliver on its legal obligation to promote environmentally responsible management of public lands on behalf of the citizens of the United States.

In January of 2015, BLM filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on narrow procedural grounds. Today’s ruling endorses these narrow objections. NEPA requires that an agency undertake a thorough environmental impact review whenever it learns of new information that affects one of its programs, such as the coal-leasing program. Findings by the U.S. government and the governments of virtually every nation on earth are that emissions of carbon dioxide are inexorably increasing the temperature of the atmosphere and oceans towards levels not seen in millions of years. These findings constitute new information requiring a renewed NEPA analysis. We look forward to a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversing the district court’s erroneous decision.


Bob LeResche, WORC Chair, (907) 723-2506
Ben Schreiber, Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy program director, (202) 280-8743, [email protected]
Kevin Dowling, WORC communications director, (406) 252-9672

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