Press release: Citizen groups sue for public participation and reclamation review of coal mine expansion – Aug. 14, 2014

August 14, 2014

Categories: Coal, Courts, News, Northern Plains Resource Council, Uncategorized

Department of Interior’s approval of mine expansion for Spring Creek Mine challenged


By Northern Plains Resource Council

BILLINGS, Mont. – Two Billings-based citizen groups today filed a lawsuit to require a hard look at reclamation before any expansion of the Spring Creek coal mine in southeastern Montana.

Northern Plains Resource Council, a Montana conservation and family agriculture organization, along with the Western Organization of Resource Councils, filed an appeal in federal district court in Billings to overturn the Department of Interior’s approval of expanded mining of federally owned coal at the mine owned by Cloud Peak Energy.

The groups argue that the Department of Interior did not properly consider Cloud Peak’s failure to reclaim most of its existing mine site. Interior also did not seek public comment through an environmental review, which is required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The groups contend that Interior’s Office of Surface Mining is obligated to seek public comment and conduct an environmental analysis that includes the status of reclamation when it authorizes significant new mining of federally owned coal.

“Not one acre of land at this mine, which has been in operation since the early 1980s, has been fully and permanently reclaimed to meet the standards of the law,” said Bull Mountain rancher and Northern Plains Resource Council Chair Steve Charter. “The OSM is obligated to open significant decisions like this to public comment and to accurately weigh the impacts of their permitting decisions. At the very least, they should be considering Cloud Peak’s failure to reclaim.”

Only 15% of the disturbed land at Spring Creek Mine has met even limited Montana bond release standards for regrading and replanting reclaimed land. None of this reclamation has received bond release that would indicate that viable plant communities have been established at the site.

Much, if not all, of the expanded coal mining sought by Cloud Peak is believed to be intended for export to Asia. Mine owner Cloud Peak Energy recently made a deal to export an additional two million tons of coal to Asia through a port in Vancouver, B.C.

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