Colorado: District court stops expansion of coal mining due to social costs

July 2014

In the first week of July, a federal district court in Colorado stopped the expansion of a coal mine in the North Fork Valley of western Colorado due to the federal government’s failure to quantify the costs of burning greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo: © Lorenzo Ravagli

The court found the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service arbitrarily based their approval to expand on-the-ground mining exploration in the Sunset Roadless Area based solely on the estimated economic benefits of the project, while ignoring the social costs of its potential contribution to global climate change. The agencies, said the court, violated the National Environmental Policy Act, which mandates that federal agencies take a “hard look” at the potential environmental impacts of a proposed project prior to making a decision. They were “arbitrary and capricious” in omitting the cost estimate of greenhouse gas emissions from the Final Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed mine expansion.

The decision could have far-reaching impacts beyond the permitting of coal mines. If other courts follow the Colorado court’s reasoning, then larger projects, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, could also be rejected on similar grounds. The State Department could be forced to follow the EPA’s recommendation to estimate the social cost of carbon from burning tar sands that the pipeline would be transporting from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The social cost of building dirty tar sands pipelines are simply too high and it is only by hiding them that the oil industry is able to justify destroying the environment and public health.

Source & more: Friends of the Earth

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