Four US states sue Department of the Interior over coal leases on public lands

© Reuters. United States Secretary of the Interior Zinke speaks before President Trump signs the executive order reviewing previous National Monument designations made under the Antiquities Act, at the Department of the Interior in Washington.

By Emily Flitter

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Four U.S. states have sued Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to block new leases of public land for coal mining, according to documents filed today. Tuesday in Montana federal court.

State attorneys in California, New Mexico, New York, and Washington argue that new coal mining would exacerbate global warming and violate the federal government’s legal duty to use public lands “in a way that protects the quality of scientific works, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, atmospheric and atmospheric values, water resources and archeology ”, according to the presentations.

The move was one of several recent attempts to block a broad promise by US President Donald Trump to reverse environmental regulations established under former President Barack Obama. The former president imposed a moratorium on new coal mining leases on public lands more than a year ago, in January 2016.

On March 29, Zinke, whom Trump appointed secretary of the interior, formally lifted the ban.

Prosecutors argued that in addition to damaging the environment, more coal mining on public lands would burden state and local governments with expenses related to healthcare, flood control, and other infrastructure needs related to the potentially damaging effects of the nearby mines.

They also argued that America’s “outdated structure” for collecting royalties from mining companies meant that the government was not getting as much money for leases as it deserved.

A spokesman for the Department of the Interior declined to comment. A spokesman for the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is State of New Mexico et al. V. United States Department of the Interior et al., United States District Court, District of Montana, 4-cv-00042.

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