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Enviros ask court to scrap approval of Cloud Peak mine expansion

Environmental groups are asking a federal court to set aside the approval of the expansion of a Cloud Peak Energy Inc. mine in Montana.

According to court documents filed June 8 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement alleging that no environmental impact statement has ever been prepared for Cloud Peak's Spring Creek mine.

"The citizens' action arises out of the federal defendants' violation of [the National Environmental Policy Act] by failing to tell the public the whole environmental truth about numerous harmful impacts of coal mining prior to approving the mining plan modification," the filing said, alleging that the underlying coal lease might be void as a matter of law.

The DOI approved an expansion of the mine in October 2016, after OSMRE released a "finding of no significant impact" and said that no EIS was needed.

The lawsuit said that the mine expansion would add more than 1,000 acres to the mine, which would be mined at a rate of 18 million tons per year and which contains 84.8 million tons of coal.

The environmental groups asked that the court overturn the approval of the mine expansion and force them to demonstrate compliance with NEPA and the Administration Procedure Act.

"The Interior Department's management of our publicly owned coal is completely off the rails," said WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program director Jeremy Nichols in a release. "Whether it's turning a blind eye to our climate or letting unauthorized employees make decisions, Interior is letting Americans down."

Cloud Peak spokesperson Rick Curtsinger told S&P Global Market Intelligence that OSMRE completed an environmental review after previous litigation from activists.

The company saw an increase in production at the Spring Creek mine in the first quarter of this year compared to the previous year's period, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The mine saw a setback with the closure of Great River Energy's Stanton Station power plant, which it supplied coal to in 2016.