Trouble for Arizona Coal Mine
A victory for environmental groups and a defeat for Peabody Western Coal Company’s Black Mesa Coal Complex came down today when a judge for the U.S. Department of the Interior vacated a permit for the Arizona coal-mining complex.
The permit had been issued by Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in December 2008, during the final days of the Bush Administration; it allowed for the operation and expansion of the Black Mesa mine beyond the year 2026. A coalition of tribal and environmental groups filed several appeals in January 2009.
In his decision to revoke the permit, Judge Robert G. Holt wrote, “OSM violated NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act] by not preparing a supplemental draft EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] when Peabody changed the proposed action. As a result, the Final EIS did not consider a reasonable range of alternatives to the new proposed action, described the wrong environmental baseline, and did not achieve the informed decision-making and meaningful public comment required by NEPA. Because of the defective Final EIS, OSM’s decision to issue a revised permit to Peabody must be vacated and remanded to OSM for further action.”
In a press release following the decision, Amy Atwood, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity said, “This is a vindication of what we have been saying for years. As a result of this huge victory, business as usual at Black Mesa has come to an end and a transition toward a green-energy economy in the Four Corners region can truly begin.”