Environmental suit targets climate order
Federal court asked to block lifting of coal moratorium.
Environmental groups that vowed to fight President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back his predecessor’s plans to curb global warming made good on their promises Wednesday, team- ing up with an American Indian tribe to ask a federal court to block an order that lifts restrictions on coal sales from federal lands.
The Interior Department last year placed a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands to review coal’s climate change impacts and whether taxpayers were getting a fair return. But Trump on Tuesday signed a sweeping executive order that included lifting the moratorium, and also
initiated a review of former President Barack Obama’s sig- nature plan to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coalfired power plants. Environmentalists say lift-
ing the moratorium would worsen climate change and
allow coal to be sold at unfairly low prices.
“It’s really just a hail Mary to a dying industry,” said Jenny
Harbine, an Earthjustice attorney who filed the lawsuit in
U.S. District Court in Montana on behalf of the North- ern Cheyenne Tribe, Sierra Club, and Center for Biological Diversity. The White House and
Department of Justice did not immediately comment.
Environmental groups have been preparing for months to fight Trump’s environmental
rollbacks, including by hiring more lawyers and rais- ing money. Advocates said they also will work to mobi- lize public opposition to the executive order.
“Poll after poll shows that the public supports climate action,” said David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
While Republicans have blamed Obama-era regulations for the loss of coal jobs, federal data show U.S. mines have been losing jobs for decades because of automation and competition from natural gas. But many people in coal country are counting on the jobs that Trump has promised, and industry advocates praised his orders.
“These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration’s strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue.
Trump’s order also will initiate a review of efforts to reduce methane emissions in oil and natural gas production, and will rescind Obamaera actions that addressed climate change and national security and efforts to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change. The administration still is deciding whether to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
And on Wednesday, the administration asked a federal appeals court to postpone a ruling on lawsuits over the Clean Power Plan, the Obama initiative to limit carbon from power plants, saying it could be changed or rescinded.
A coalition of 16 states and the District of Columbia said they will oppose any effort to withdraw the plan or seek dismissal of a pending legal case, while environmental advocates said they’re also ready to step in to defend environmental laws if the U.S. government does not.