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Judge reverses Signal Peak mine expansion approval

Bluish black coal
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The expansion of an underground coal mine in central Montana is on pause amid legal challenges from conservation groups that say regulators failed to fully consider environmental impacts.

A federal judge last week withdrew Signal Peak’s expansion approval through the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement due to errors in regulators’ environmental analysis. The expansion would allow Signal Peak to mine federal coal, where it currently mines state and privately owned coal.

Earth Justice attorney Shiloh Hernandez represents environmental groups in the lawsuit and said mining poses a threat to natural resources in the Bull Mountains, where Signal Peak extracts coal to ship overseas.

“There are, in the mountains, springs that provide critical water resources for the entire area, for the ranchers who make their livelihood there and for the entire ecology,” Hernandez said.

The judge’s order said the effect of mining on ranchers weighs in favor of removing approval for the expansion until regulators can produce a NEPA-compliant environmental impact statement, a roughly two-year process.

Signal Peak did not reply to YPR’s request for comment by deadline.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.