Federal Court Allows Limited Ongoing Mine Operations

Published November 30, 2017

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, the Senior Judge in the District Court in Montana, allowed Signal Peak Energy to continue operating its Bull Mountains Mine No. 1 near Billings, Montana on a limited basis, modifying his earlier order which would have prevented the mine from operating as the federal government undertook an environmental review.

On October 31, Molloy granted the coal company’s request to keep mining coal after he had previously halted the mine’s expanded operations saying federal officials had failed to properly calculate its climate impacts.

In mid-August Molloy blocked Bull Mountain Mine No. 1’s expanded operations because he found the federal lease failed to take “hard look at the indirect and cumulative effects of coal transportation and coal combustion”

Trump Backs Mine’s Operation

During the most recent quarter the mine, which employs 253 people, extracted 1.8 million tons of coal. Signal Peak Energy filed a motion requesting it be allowed to continue mining in existing areas of operation warning otherwise immediate layoffs would result from Molloy’s August injunction. The Trump administration filed a brief in favor of the company’s request.

While Molloy allowed Signal Peak to mine up to 170,000 additional tons of coal, his order specified, “Any federal coal so displaced must be stockpiled and stored at the Mine, and shall be neither sold nor shipped. In all other regards, the injunction … remains in full force and effect.”

Signal Peak Energy spokesman Mike Dawson said the company was pleased the court allowed the mine to continue to operate.

“We’re extremely pleased, especially for our employees,” Dawson told E&E News. “It gives us the ability to move forward.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.