En­vi­ron­men­tal suit tar­gets cli­mate or­der

Fed­eral court asked to block lift­ing of coal mora­to­rium.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Michael Biesecker and Sam Hananel

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.

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