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By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials improperly downplayed the climate change effects from burning coal when they approved a large expansion of an underground Montana coal mine that would release an estimated 190 million tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, a court ruled.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling that Interior Department officials “hid the ball” during the Trump administration, by failing to fully account for emissions from burning the fuel in a 2018 environmental analysis.

A judge previously ruled against the disputed expansion of Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain mine in 2017, but allowed mining to continue while a lawsuit brought by environmentalists proceeded.

Monday’s ruling sends the case back to the district court level to decide the fate of the mine’s federal permit.

It marks the latest in long string of decisions against the U.S. government going back to the Obama administration for failing to adequately consider climate damages from extracting and burning fossil fuels.

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