In another strike against coal, a federal judge just shut down plans for a large coal mine expansion in Montana, saying US officials exaggerated the economic benefits of the mine while downplaying the impact it would have on the environment. Signal Peak Energy wanted to expand the Bull Mountain coal mine by 11 square miles and 176 million tons, claiming it would create jobs and generate tax revenue, all while not having any new impact on climate change.

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U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy blocked the proposal, ruling that approving such a request should take into consideration not just the environmental effects of the mine, but shipping the fuel to Asia and the carbon cost for climate change of burning that fuel. The ruling has its roots in a lawsuit filed in 2015 by the Sierra Club, Montana Elders for a Livable tomorrow and the Montana Environmental Information Center, in which the groups stated that the government has not considered the effects of mining once it leaves the mountain.

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Mine owners argued the expansion would add $24 million in tax revenue and that there would be no additional impact to the environment, since customers could simply go elsewhere for more coal anyway. “This conclusion is illogical, and places the (Interior Department’s) thumb on the scale by inflating the benefits of the action while minimizing its impacts,” wrote Judge Molloy. Similar rulings in Colorado and Montana have been made in the past, but in those cases, mines were eventually allowed to expand after further environmental review.

Via the Associated Press

Images via Signal Peak Energy and Deposit Photos