Judge inflicts significant setback on Trump's policy to increase coal mining on federal lands


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WASHINGTON – Federal Judge Decides Friday Night a significant decline in the Trump administration's coal promotion policy, decided that the Interior Ministry had acted illegally by seeking to lift an Obama moratorium on the exploitation of coal on public land.

The decision by Judge Brian Morris of the Montana District US District Court does not restore President Barack Obama's 2016 freeze on new coal leases on public lands. The Obama administration is working to reduce the consumption of coal, a major producer of greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change.

However, the court 's decision indicates that the 2017 Trump administration policy, passed by former Home Secretary Ryan Zinke, aimed at canceling the ban on the property. Mr. Obama's coal mining did not include adequate studies on the effects of mining on the environment, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. from 1970, or NEPA, one of the nation's environmental laws.

"The federal defendants' decision not to initiate the NEPA process is arbitrary and capricious," Justice Morris wrote.

The decision means that "the Home Office must return to the drawing board if it wants to continue selling coal leases on public land – it must do a better job to legally and scientifically justify this decision." Said Jenny Harbine, a lawyer from Earthjustice, who took part in the pleadings against the Trump administration.

The judge also told the plaintiffs and defendants that he would present in the coming months a second legal ruling on the advisability of reinstating the ban on mines at the time of Obama. .

Faith Vander Voort, spokesperson for the Department of the Interior, and Conor Bernstein, spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, who has been associated with Trump's administration in this case, said they review the decision.

Mr. Trump, who campaigned against Obama's environment, had hoped to put an end to his predecessor's freeze on coal mining on public lands. In the United States, more than 40% of the coal produced comes from federal lands, and most of the fossil fuel pollution that heats the planet comes from burning coal. Mr. Obama felt that efforts to block coal mining on public land was a vital step in the fight against climate change, while Mr. Trump felt that lifting the ban was a step crucial to help coal miners.

Mr. Trump's efforts to keep his promise of campaigning to help the coal industry and to revisit the environmental policies of his predecessor, especially the rules to combat pollution by oil and coal , the main causes of global warming, have been repeatedly blocked by the courts. Many were denied for reasons similar to those given by Judge Morris in Friday's decision: the administration did not follow the correct legal protocol to justify its actions.

The decline is the latest in environmental law observers' latest estimates of around 30 such losses in courtrooms as a result of Trump's efforts to overturn Obama's environmental rules.

On Friday, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted the Environmental Protection Agency 90 days to decide on the possible ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide associated with brain damage. While the Obama administration had recommended banning the chemical, based on E.P.A.'s recommendations. scientists, the Trump administration has sought to allow the agricultural industry to continue using the chemical.

And last month, a federal judge in Alaska declared unlawful the order of Mr. Trump, who had lifted Obama's ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of it. the north coast of the Atlantic.

The proponents of fossil fuels, however, have taken to heart the recent confirmation of the Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, expert in natural resources law who has previously worked as an oil lobbyist.

Mr. Bernhardt's predecessor, Mr. Zinke, a former congressman and a member of Navy SEALs, was considered inexperienced in politics and legal issues. Mr. Bernhardt is recognized as a highly experienced legal and political expert. As a lawyer, he has pleaded before major jurisdictions in the fields of the environment and energy.

"Bernhardt is a completely different thing," said Patrick Parenteau, professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School. "They were so eager to execute their orders and they took shortcuts – they will probably clean that up."

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