Montana Environmental Group Intervenes With Coal Company's Judicial Review

Jun 24, 2020

A coal mining company that works in Montana filed a request in May for a judicial review of a recently changed rule for power plant air emissions standards. A Montana environmental group filed a motion to intervene this past week.

Westmoreland Mining Holdings, which operates Rosebud Mine in Colstrip, MT,  filed a petition in Washington D.C. federal court last month asking for the review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

The court document does not explain the company’s intentions, and Westmoreland declined YPR’s request for a comment on this story.

The lawsuit was filed on the same day the Environmental Protection Agency published a rule change that cut language saying it’s “appropriate and necessary” to regulate the emission of air toxins like mercury and arsenic from coal and oil-fired power plants.

In the federal register on May 22, the EPA said while emission standards remain in place, it made the change in language because it found the financial cost of the companies complying with the regulations outweighs the health benefits of the emissions reductions.

The Montana Environmental Information Center joined around 20 other groups last week in filing a motion to intervene in Westmoreland’s case on top of petitioning the EPA to review the rule change.

The environmental law nonprofit organization, Earthjustice, represents a few of the advocacy groups listed on the case, including MEIC.

Earthjustice attorney Neil Gormley says the new wording makes the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards vulnerable to legal challenge.

“What matters is that the standards are now at risk. EPA has essentially invited the coal industry to go to court to take down the standards themselves,” Gormley said. 

YPR reached out to the EPA, which stated it does not comment on pending litigation. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards apply to power plant emissions including mercury, arsenic, and lead. Mercury exposure can lead to a number of health effects, including harm to the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system.