Judge Rules Based On Climate Change! No Coal Expansion

For the first time, a federal judge has blocked expansion of a coal mine because the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) didn’t consider the climate change ramifications when approving it. 

Earthjustice sued BLM for allowing Arch Coal to expand mining operations in Colorado without evaluating its impact on climate change. The nonprofit represented Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians and High Country Conservation Advocates.

Key to the decision is the Obama Administration’s controversial "social cost of carbon," now required to be calculated by all federal agencies when they approve projects. They must weigh a project’s value versus the cost of damages such as droughts, floods, fires etc. caused by fossil fuel emissions that are fueling global warming.

Incredibly, after the court decision, BLM announced it would hold another coal lease sale in Colorado, offering up another 8 million tons of coal beneath public lands at bargain basement prices. If Arch Coal’s expansion had been approved it would have destroyed 1700 acres of roadless wilderness.

Coal Arch Colorado

There could be much bigger ramifications:

"If the judge’s reasoning holds up in other challenges to agency decisions, it could undermine the rationales for much bigger projects, such as the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline," says InsideClimate News. "In its environmental review of the KXL, the State Department ignored repeated requests by the Environmental Protection Agency to estimate the social cost of carbon from burning the unusually dirty fuel the pipeline would deliver from Canada to the Gulf Coast."

Export-Import Bank

As the Tea Party works to abolish the Ex-Im bank (it’s corporate welfare, they say), other Republicans and coal-state Democrats want to reverse its recent policy to stop financing coal plants. 

The bank’s charter is up for reauthorization by September 30.

"For the last two years, the Export-Import Bank has joined the Obama administration’s assault on our nation’s coal industry," says Rep. Shelley Capito (R-WV). "This is  another example of this administration’s intent to pick winners and losers in our economy, and I can no longer support the reauthorization of the  Export-Import Bank."

Last year, the Ex-Im Bank joined the European Investment Bank and World Bank in issuing policies that coal plants would no longer be financed except in cases without alternatives. The Treasury Department followed with "coal guidelines" that require development banks to prioritize clean energy investments. It stops short of barring coal investments, however.

Not to worry, the bank is considering financing a huge coal plant in India, which should put their minds at rest. The 4 gigawatt plant would be operating by 2017, burned from nearby coal mines. Local protests are ongoing.

Over the past five years, development banks invested almost $13 billion in coal projects that are driving climate change, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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