A federal court in the District of Columbia has rejected challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) decision to lease two public tracts in Wyoming for coal mining operations. WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar, Nos. 10-1174, 11-37 (D.D.C. 7/30/12). Plaintiffs claimed that BLM had not considered the impacts of global warming on the plaintiffs’ protected interests in aesthetic, recreational and economic interests in the proposed mining area.  

The court held that the connection between the coal mining and global warming effects was insufficient to provide plaintiffs with standing to pursue this aspect of their suit. The court found that the protected aesthetic, recreational and economic interests are strictly local, while the effects of global warming are “diffuse and unpredictable.” According to the court, any relationship between the coal mining and global warming impacts “depends on the behavior of countless third parties,” including energy consumers, whose consumption behavior might or might not be affected even if the tracts lay fallow, causing an increase in the price of coal.

The court also held that BLM’s environmental impact statement adequately addressed a series of other issues that plaintiffs challenged, including impacts of local emissions of ozone, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, as well as the impacts of land disturbance and reclamation. The court granted summary judgment to BLM on all counts, dismissing plaintiffs’ claims.