Wyoming’s Coal Industry Gets Big Win in Court

Feb 22, 2024 | Regional News

Cheyenne, WY (RELEASE) February 22nd, 2024 — Wyoming’s coal industry’s earned a long-awaited legal win this week, as three Ninth Circuit judges unanimously sided with Wyoming’s arguments in support of the continuation of the federal coal-leasing program. The decision vacated a lower court order that reinstated Obama-era coal-leasing restrictions and required federal officials to perform duplicative National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis. 

“This ruling is an unequivocal win for our coal industry and a reminder that the Biden Administration has to follow the law,” Governor Mark Gordon said. “The Department of Interior now has one less excuse to thwart its federal coal leasing responsibilities. I appreciate the Attorney General and her staff for their excellent work on this case.” 

The complicated case spanned seven years and involved conflicting orders issued by former Interior Secretaries, in which Secretary Jewel issued an order to cease federal coal leasing and conduct a Programmatic Environmental Statement on the entire coal leasing program. Before that review was complete, Secretary Zinke rescinded the Jewel Order so coal leasing could resume; lastly Secretary Haaland rescinded the Zinke order. The district court ruled that the Department of the Interior needed to conduct additional NEPA analysis before resuming coal leasing under its existing authorities.  Wyoming argued that the case was moot, because the Zinke order was rescinded by Secretary Haaland.

Litigation costs for Wyoming were covered by the Federal Natural Resource Policy Account as directed by Governor Gordon.