Ruling in federal coal mining case expected soon |

Ruling in federal coal mining case expected soon

Patrick Kelly
A Trapper Mine haul truck prepares to dump a load of coal near Craig Station.
Janelle O’Dea

On April 24, a federal judge in Denver heard arguments in a lawsuit regarding mining plans at two local mines, Colowyo and Trapper.

Paul Seby, an attorney for Trapper Mining, Inc., said the hearing lasted approximately three hours.

“It was a pretty involved discussion,” he said.

The claim, brought before the court by the conservation group WildEarth Guardians, alleges that the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement failed to follow federal law when it approved mining plans for the mines.

Although Guardians filed the suit against the Office of Surface Mining, Trapper Mining, Inc. and Tri-State — the company that owns Colowyo — have intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the Office of Surface Mining.

Attorney’s on both sides of the case agree the arguments went well and expect a timely ruling from the judge.

“The judge said we’ll have a ruling soon,” said Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, an attorney for WildEarth Guardians. “And I do think that he means soon, not months from now.”

U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson heard from WildEarth Guardians and then took arguments from the defendants and interveners.

Rucavage-Barz said the judge clearly agreed with Guardians that the Office of Surface Mining had violated the law by failing to perform adequate environmental analyses and provide adequate public notice of its decisions.

“We already view it as a victory because OSM (Office of Surface Mining) has made some changes to the way that it does things,” she said.

However, one of the judge’s primary concerns was the timeliness of the claim, said Seby. The mining plans in question were approved nearly a decade ago and the operations they green-lighted are nearly complete.

That fact effects WildEarth Guardian’s standing argument as any action from the court is unlikely to redress their argued injury, Seby said.

“The court can’t order the coal to go back in the ground,” he said. “There’s no redressable circumstance here.”

Reach Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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