Judge deals blow to coal expansion in Montana, Wyoming

GREAT FALLS – A federal judge has put the brakes on coal expansion in the Powder River Basin, ruling that the federal government must find an alternative to a plan that could have opened 15 million acres for development.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls ruled Friday that the Bureau of Land Management did not properly consider the impacts to the environment and climate change when it approved a 2015 plan to increase the acreage for mining and oil and gas drilling in Montana and Wyoming.

He also ruled in a case brought by Montana and Wyoming conservation groups that the BLM must consider multiple options, including reducing the amount of coal mined in the Powder River Basin, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.