Judge Limits Trump Administration’s Plans for Coal Mining Expansion
Last Friday, a federal judge ruled against a Trump administration policy that would have lifted an Obama-era moratorium on coal mining on public lands. The setback for the administration follows other Trump’s environmental policies that have been challenged by courts across the country.
Judge Brian Morris of the United States District Court of the District of Montana ruled that the 2017 policy from the Department of the Interior broke federal law by not taking necessary precautions when lifting the ban.
Morris said that Brian Zinke, the former head of the department who resigned in 2018, did not conduct necessary studies of the environmental impact of coal mining. These studies are required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (NEPA).
The decision on Friday does not reinstate President Barack Obama’s freeze on new coal mining leases on public lands, however, and the ruling served more as a rebuke to President Trump. Morris stated that he would hand down another ruling in the coming months on whether to reinstate the moratorium.
Currently, more than 40 percent of coal produced in America comes from federal land. Obama saw blocking coal mining as a key step in tackling climate change. Since taking office, President Trump has persisted in efforts to rollback Obama’s environmental regulations, focusing particularly on the coal industry, but rolling back regulations on many environmental matters.
Morris’s ruling comes amid other court rulings that challenge the Trump Administration’s environmental policy agenda on other fronts. On the same day, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA must stop prolonging its decision to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which may cause harm to humans. Earlier in April, another federal judge declared President Trump’s order to revoke an Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans illegal.
The Trump administration has also faced setbacks through court decisions in its push to reinvigorate the coal industry by relaxing regulations. Environmental law observers estimate that a string of about 40 losses in courts have impeded Trump from fully rolling back Obama-era regulations, mostly for the reason that the administration did not follow correct legal protocol in justifying its actions.