A federal judge in Montana delayed a Trump administration attempt to open up more federal lands to coal mining Friday, The New York Times reports.
U.S. District Court judge Brian Morris ruled that the Trump administration illegally overturned a moratorium placed on coal mining on federal lands by former President Barack Obama. Obama instated the policy in 2016 as part of his administration’s environmental agenda to cut coal usage.
Morris’s decision states that former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did not consider the full environmental effects of overturning the coal mining ban and ordered the Department of the Interior (DOI) to redo and expand environmental studies on the matter. The DOI is looking into the court decision before taking further action, TheNYT reports.
“Federal Defendants’ decision not to initiate the [National Environmental Policy Act] process proves arbitrary and capricious,” Morris, who was nominated to the federal bench by Obama in 2013, wrote in his decision.
The next push to overturn Obama’s moratorium on selling coal mining leases for federal land will fall to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Bernhardt took charge of the DOI as acting secretary after Zinke left the department in January. The Senate confirmed Bernhardt’s nomination April 11.
Trump campaigned on reviving America’s faltering coal industry to save jobs in the sector as well as promote U.S. energy independence from foreign sources. Environmental activists and Democrats have hampered the administration’s progress, claiming that emissions from the sector are worsening climate change and may do irreparable harm to the environment.
The courts themselves have put up some of the stiffest resistance to the Trump administration’s policies. A federal judge in Alaska struck down two different Trump administration acts in March.
In one case, the Trump administration negotiated a land swap with a remote Alaskan community so the village could construct a road to the areas only all-weather airport. The second court ruling struck down an order from Trump to revoke a ban on oil and gas exploration in federal waters in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
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