By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press
Judge found ‘sufficiently serious’ errors in the Interior Department’s environmental review of a 7,100-acre expansion of the Bull Mountains Mine.
A federal judge in Missoula has tossed out an Interior Department decision that would have allowed Signal Peak Energy to expand a coal-mining operation in central Montana.
In a ruling on Feb. 10, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy found that errors in the federal government’s environmental reviews were “sufficiently serious” to reverse an approval of an expansion to the Bull Mountains Mine located north of Billings that Signal Peak Energy operates.
The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement had committed to conduct an environmental impact statement — an in-depth review of the project’s anticipated impact — but Molloy was unpersuaded by the agency’s attempt to go forward with its initial approval of the expansion. Molloy effectively told the federal government and Signal Peak to start over with a new application that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act if they wish to move forward with mining federally owned coal located under the Bull Mountains.