A federal judge in Colorado has vacated a coal mining permit issued by the U.S. Department of Interior’s (DOI) Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and ordered the agency to reconsider the matter. Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Env’t v. Klein, No. 07-1475 (D. Colo. 10/28/10).

The court’s order requires the agency, in part, to (i) “Address the presumption that approval of the 2005 Permit Revision application is a type of action for which an EIS [environmental impact statement] is normally prepared”; (ii) “Include a meaningful discussion of all reasonable alternatives”; (iii) “Discuss the specific mitigation measures proposed in ethnographic studies in determining the severity of effects” that the permit will have on scientific, historic and cultural resources; and (iv) “Provide meaningful public notice . . . in both English and Navajo on local Navajo radio stations, for all future actions related to permitting responsibilities at the Navajo mine.”

The agency had determined that an EIS was not required because the proposed project would have no significant impact on the quality of the human environment. The permit would have allowed a 3,800-acre mine expansion on Navajo Nation land in northwest New Mexico, known as Area IV North, and was intended to generate additional coal for the Four Corners Power Plant operated by Arizona Public Service Co.