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By Julia Conley, Common Dreams

Bull Mountain Coal Mine

“This is now a huge opportunity for the Biden administration to get it right on coal and climate,” said one advocate.

Environmental defenders on Tuesday urged the Biden administration to take advantage of a federal court ruling which declared that the U.S. Interior Department under former President Donald Trump had wrongly allowed the expansion of a coal mine in Montana—one that would have resulted in the largest coal mine in the U.S. and hundreds of millions of tons of fossil fuel emissions over a decade.

With the question of the expansion of Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain Coal Mine now headed back to the Interior Department, said Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians, which joined other groups in suing over the expansion, “this is now a huge opportunity for the Biden administration to get it right on coal and climate.”

The department’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) decided in 2017 that Signal Peak Energy could expand the coal mine, allowing for the extraction of 175 million more tons of coal and the release of 240 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions over 11 years—more emissions than those of any other single source in the country.

The OSM’s approval was quickly challenged by a federal court that same year, which found administration officials had put a “thumb on the scale” by only considering potential benefits of the mine expansion instead of considering negative impacts. The following year, the OSM completed an environmental assessment which claimed the new emissions resulting from the expansion would be insignificant compared to global greenhouse gas emissions, which stand at 50 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per year.

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