CHEYENNE - On Thursday, a group of environmental organizations asked U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson to expand the lawsuit filed against the U.S. Forest Service over plans to mine coal in the South Porcupine tract in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming to include the North Porcupine tract as well.
Johnson heard their request, along with the Forest Service's objections to it, and promised a decision in the next few days.
The South Porcupine suit was filed almost a year ago in Denver to halt development of more than 400 million tons of coal reserves adjacent to the North Antelope Rochelle Mine. Parties to the suit included the Sierra Club, Powder River Basin Resource Council and WildEarth Guardians. In their original suit, the groups called the Forest Service's decision to open nearly 2,000 acres of the Thunder Basin National Grassland to strip mining "misguided."
In April the case was transferred to Wyoming. Entities supporting the Forest Service included the state of Wyoming, the Wyoming Mining Association, National Mining Association and BTU Western Resources.
BTU Western Resources Inc., a Peabody subsidiary, had their initial bid of $361,647,000 for the tract rejected by the Bureau of Land Management in March as being "below market"
rate. Their revised bid of $446 million was accepted last May. Winning the bid will allow Peabody to continue operations, as the new lease is adjacent to their existing mine.
BTU Western Resources was the lone bidder at the sale. BTU Western Resources also bid more than $793 million for the North Porcupine tract in June.
The environmental groups claim that the BLM did not adequately consider the impact of burning the coal mined in the South Porcupine tract. In addition, they want to add the larger North Porcupine tract to their suit, since their concerns for that tract are identical to their concerns over South Porcupine. The Forest Service wants the two tracts to be considered as separate cases.
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