Coal mines across the U.S. face a new obstacle in the form of new legislation that requires environmental reviews.
The legislation is set in motion by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, part of the Interior Department and responsible for regulating the environmental assessments in the U.S. coal mining industry.
How coal is extracted and burned is part and parcel of the efforts to correctly asses the impact the coal industry has on global warming. It is also in line with governmental concerns of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet, for the United States coal industry the new regulations could deliver another blow adding to the increasing regulatory scrutiny and changes in royalty payment.
Last year, U.S. Denver judges delivered a series of rulings concerning coal mines from federal leases which add up to 40 percent of U.S. coal industry. The rulings advised federal agencies that approve the mining projects to take into account the indirect environmental impact of extraction and burning, adding to the requirements related to mine dust or equipment emissions.
Industry representative fear that the door was opened for legal actions against coal mines that make the backbone of the energetic industry. At the same time, it was stated that coal mines already experience delays in permit obtaining and that added legislation simply worsens the matter rendering the industry inactive over long periods of time. The president of the Colorado Mining Association, Stuart Anderson is of the opinion that taking into account a mine’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is a matter of ridicule. Unregulated emissions in the developing world should be of greater concern and the U.S. government is threatening national stability and security by adding such legislation to an already precarious situation.
In an effort to make the importance of the new legislation clearer to coal mines U.S. District Judge Brooke Jackson delivered two rulings on Colorado mines, stressing the importance of correctly assessing greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews.
Colowyo coal mine was concerned with the rulings. This particular operation provides the coal for Colorado’s Craig Station power plant and the federal emissions data places it at 8 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions on a yearly basis. If it fails to review its environmental review, the loss of the permit would result in 220 miners losing their jobs and a power shortage.
Environmental groups nationwide welcome the new legislation in what they regard as a return to normality from what was until now perceived as industry-favorable governmental stances. Jeremy Nichols from the WildEarth Guardians stated that:
„I think the more we learn and the more honest accounting we get from the federal government, the more we will decide we don’t like it”.
The environmental group has previously sued Colorado coal mine and tried to block coal mine expansion in Decker, Montana, as well as in Somerset Colorado.
The results brought good news. Judge Jackson stopped the expansion of Arch Coal Inc.’s West Elk coal mine as the request to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions was rejected by the Bureau of Land Management.
Image Source: Softpedia
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