Judge throws out lawsuit attempting to halt federal coal leases

Judge throws out lawsuit attempting to halt federal coal leases

A federal judge on Friday threw out a lawsuit attempting to reinstate a moratorium on leasing federal land to coal producers.

The administration first attempted to end an Obama-era ban on new coal leasing on public lands in 2017, although Judge Brian Morris ruled last year that the Trump administration did not take the required steps to comply with environmental laws.

Morris ruled Friday that the administration has since “remedied the violation” after completing an assessment this year which found no significant impacts of resuming coal leases. 

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He added those attempting to pause the leasing, including several states, tribes and environmental groups, “remain free to file a complaint to challenge the sufficiency” of the assessment. 

Jenny Harbine, an attorney with Earthjustice, who was on the case, told The Hill in an email that the ruling “doesn’t change the writing on the wall, which is that coal is giving way to cleaner, cheaper renewable sources of energy.”

“The Trump Administration’s desperate efforts to subsidize coal won’t save the industry, they will only cause more damage to water, air and climate as we make our transition to cleaner alternatives,” she added. 

Coal-fired power generation has a made up a smaller part of the U.S. energy sector in recent years and new data has shown that this year, more energy is expected to be produced from renewable sources than coal

However, the administration has been supportive of the coal industry. 

“Coal is and will continue to be a critical part of our nation’s energy portfolio and we are committed to the responsible development of our abundant resources and advancing American energy independence, jobs, and economic growth,” said a February statement from Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond on the government assessment.