Judge: Forest Service’s analysis of coal project satisfied requirements

DELTA—A federal judge ruled the U.S. Forest Service adequately satisfied its legal obligations with its 2008 environmental impact statement for the West Elk mine E-Seam coal development project.

The West Elk mine near Somerset has begun to produce reserves found in the E-Seam, according to Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests Supervisor Charlie Richmond.

In 2008, the environmental group WildEarth Guardians filed suit against the Forest Service, alleging the agency failed to properly analyze alternatives to mitigate the effects of methane gas, which is released during coal mining operations and vented into the atmosphere.

The group also claimed the Forest Service analysis, which is required by the National Environmental Policy Act, for flaring and capture of methane was insufficient, and it challenged the agency’s findings on methane and its effects on global warming.

Richmond decided in 2008 the Forest Service had sufficiently completed the work through its Environmental Impact Statement of the methane releases, he said Friday.

Months after that 2008 decision, WildEarth Guardians filed suit. Monday, United States District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger ruled against the lawsuit.

“We are always pleased when a federal judge rules in our favor, especially on such an important case that helps to preserve the economic future of the area,” Richmond said. “This legal challenge, and several others since then, indicate how important it will be for the Forest Service, other agencies, and the coal companies to find ways to capture and use the methane in the future. It is the right thing to do.”


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