Judges awarded the National Mining Association’s (NMA) legal team two decisive wins in early August. The first case was WildEarth Guardians v. Ken Salazar and Antelope Coal LLC. The NMA entered to help defend the federal coal leasing program against environmental groups’ challenges to the government’s West Antelope II lease sale.

                The Powder River Basin (PRB) has been the venue for green activists who have repeatedly sought a legal toehold to tie up the federal coal leasing program by alleging environmental harm when the coal is mined and its contributions to global warming when coal is used to generate electricity.

                In a decisive ruling for the NMA, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia not only denied the environmentalists standing to challenge coal leases on the basis of climate change, the court also denied their contention that environmental reviews were inadequate. By knocking the pins out from under WildEarth Guardians, the summary judgment may well put to rest the entire line of attack on the PRB coal program.

                The second victory stemmed from the EPA’s virtual moratorium on new coal mining permits in the Eastern coalfields. In NMA v. Jackson, Judge Reggie Walton—in the same U.S. district court—handed the NMA a win on all counts.

                The EPA’s use of guidance to impose “conductivity” standards on state agencies and coal companies is unlawful, Judge Walton said. So too is the EPA’s encroachment on the authorities of the Office of Surface Mining under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and its muscling of state agencies under the Clean Water Act.