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Enviros revive lawsuit against DOI over federal coal leasing program

Environmental groups are reviving a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior over the agency's alleged failure to conduct an "adequate analysis" of the effect of climate and other environmental factors in its management of the federal coal leasing program.

The Western Organization of Resource Councils, or WORC, and Friends of the Earth initially sued the DOI in late 2014 in an attempt to get the agency to consider climate change.

The environmental groups refiled the lawsuit May 26, according to a document filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in response to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's decision to stop the programmatic environmental impact statement process for the federal coal leasing program. WORC and Friends of the Earth requested in the document that the court adhere to a schedule it ordered in March 2016.

Bob LeResche, the chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council and past chair of WORC, said the problems faced by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's coal leasing program have not yet been fixed.

"BLM's own January scoping report called for major revisions to the program's antiquated analysis," he said. "Realities of climate change and shrinking markets for coal are real and ought to be considered. For a federal agency to ignore the huge new body of knowledge acquired since 1979 is just whistling past the graveyard. This is not how a responsible nation operates."

Luke Popovich, spokesperson for the National Mining Association, told S&P Global Market Intelligence that "this is just another effort by 'keep it in the ground activists' raising false environmental concerns to shut down a major source of affordable electricity already heavily regulated by state and federal agencies."