Judge Restores Coal Lease Moratorium on Public Lands That Was Undone Under Trump

Climate and Indigenous activists applauded Friday’s reinstatement of an Obama-era moratorium that prohibited new coal leases on public lands, until after an environmental review was completed.

Brian Morris, chief judge at the U.S. District Court of Montana, issued an orderReintroduce the 2016 moratorium, which Ryan Zinke, former President Donald Trump’s disgracedInterior secretary reversedThe following year.

“It’s past time that this misguided action by the Trump administration is overturned,” Anne Hedges of the Montana Environmental Information Center saidIn a statement

“The coal leasing program on public lands is harmful to wildlife, waterways, our fragile climate,And taxpayers’ pocketbooks,” she continued, also urging action by the Biden administration.

“There’s no excuse for how long it has taken to require the administration to follow the law and protect public resources,” Hedges added. “This administration needs to act quickly and protect the climate from its deeply flawed coal leasing program.”

In 2019, Morris — an appointee of former President Barack Obama — ruledA coalition of environmental and tribal groups won the case and an environmental analysis was ordered under the National Environmental Policy Act. After finding the review inadequate, the groups sued again in 2020.

Morris also spoke earlier this month rejectedTrump-era U.S. Bureau of Land Management, (BLM), coal mining plans that were defended in court.

President Joe Biden angeredEnvironmentalists are refusing to immediately restore the coal leasing moratorium and for approvingTrump and Obama have granted more fossil fuel drilling permits on public lands than ever before.

Morris’ new ruling states that the BLM’s NEPA analysis “should have considered the effect of restarting coal leasing from a forward-looking perspective, including connected actions.”

“The ‘status quo’ that existed before the Zinke order was a moratorium on coal leasing,” Morris added, “because the baseline alternative must consider the status quo, BLM was required to begin its analysis from that point.”

Other activists from groups that are plaintiffs in the case also cheered Morris’ ruling.

“This order marks a big win for our public lands and climate future,” Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) saidIn a statement. “Federal coal isn’t compatible with preserving a livable climate. The Biden administration must now undertake a full environmental review to bring the federal coal program to an orderly end.”

Serena Wetherelt is president of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. said that her people “fought and sacrificed to protect our homelands for generations, and our lands and waters mean everything to us.”

“We are thrilled that the court is requiring what we have always asked for: serious consideration of the impacts of the federal coal leasing program on the tribe and our way of life,” she continued.

Wetherelt added that her group hopes Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland “fulfill their trust obligation to take a hard look at the overall energy program on federal lands, and really consider how to make it best serve the tribe, taxpayers, and the climate.”

Jeremy Nichols is director of WildEarth Guardians’ climate and energy programs. asserted that “to protect our climate, we have to start keeping coal in the ground.”

“Today’s ruling is a major step forward in that direction and ensures the Biden administration stays on track to fulfill its promise to end federal fossil fuel leasing,” he added.

Friday’s environmental news includes the finalization of an agreement between conservation groups and BLM. agreementTo block new oil and natural gas leases on 2.2 million acres in southwestern Colorado until the agency completes its environmental review and publishes a revised plan for the area.

“Any fossil fuel expansion is flatly incompatible with avoiding climate catastrophes and preserving a livable world,” CBD’s McKinnon — a plaintiff both in the Colorado fossil fuel and national coal lease cases — said in a statement, adding that “the Biden administration must end new leasing here, once and for all.”