Four AGs Filed Lawsuit Challenging Restart of Federal Coal Leasing Program Based on Flawed NEPA Review

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led a coalition of four attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the Department of the Interior’s decision to restart the federal coal leasing program “based on an inadequate and overly narrow environmental review that fails to assess the environmental impacts of the program, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.” In their complaint, the attorneys general highlighted several serious flaws in the environmental assessment (EA) produced by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). First, the AGs noted that BLM “impermissibly restricted the scope of its analysis to cover just four federal coal leases” that occurred between the Trump administration’s lifting of the Obama-era moratorium in March 2017 and the “anticipated date” of its expiration. Second, the AGs noted that BLM “ignored without explanation several reasonable alternatives for the federal coal leasing program.” Third, the AGs noted that BLM “completely ignored ... potentially significant impacts associated with the federal coal leasing program,” including “harm to public lands and wildlife from coal mining, air quality impacts from coal transport and combustion, the disposal of coal ash, impacts to environmental justice communities, and ... cumulative climate change impacts.” The complaint also highlighted the Interior Department’s failure to evaluate whether restarting the coal leasing program is in the public interest and would yield fair market value for the public, as required by the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.