Tribal and Environmental Groups Sue Administration for Lifting Coal Leasing Ban

By Yessenia Funes Mar 30, 2017

Several groups filed a lawsuit against the administration yesterday (March 29) for its decision to re-launch coal leasing on federal lands.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Citizens for Clean Energy, the Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians and other environmental groups launched the suit through law nonprofit Earthjustice in federal court to block President Donald Trump’s March 28 executive order, which called on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to withdraw a moratorium on the federal coal leasing program, among other things.

Former President Barack Obama paused the program last year in January in order to revise and reform it to better address environmental concerns, as well as criticisms that it was cheating American taxpayers. The plan was to modernize the program, which was responsible for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Part of that review finished in January, and then-Secretary Sally Jewell claimed it was necessary. In a press release Jewell stated:

“We have a responsibility to ensure the public—including state governments—get a fair return from the sale of America’s coal, operate the program efficiently and in a way that meets the needs of our neighbors in coal communities, and minimize the impact coal production has on the planet that our children and grandchildren will inherit. The only responsible next step is to undertake further review and implement these commonsense measures.”

Now that Zinke officially lifted the Obama-era ban, as of yesterday, groups are taking him to court.

“No one voted to pollute our public lands, air or drinking water in the last election, yet the Trump administration is doing the bidding of powerful polluters as nearly its first order of business,” said Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine, who is leading this case, in a press release. “Our legal system remains an important backstop against the abuses of power we’ve witnessed over the course of the past two months. That’s why we’re going to court to defend our public lands, clean air and water, and a healthy climate for all.”