AG Ferguson’s 20th legal victory against Trump Administration
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson released the following statement today after a federal judge in Montana ruled that the Trump Administration illegally revoked an Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands, and must comply with a federal law requiring environmental analysis before leasing coal-mining rights on public lands:
“It’s fitting that on the eve of Earth Day, another federal judge slaps down the Trump Administration’s illegal effort to roll back basic environmental protections,” said Ferguson. “The Trump Administration illegally revoked the Obama-era moratorium on leasing public lands for coal-mining even though its Interior Department admitted it did not fully understand the societal and environmental impacts of extraction. This ruling sends a clear message that the federal government cannot take an action that impacts our environment without careful review and deliberation – which, to be polite, is not a strong suit of The Trump Administration.”
In May 2017, Ferguson filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management over a program to lease coal mining rights on public land, which contributes to significant coal-train traffic through the state of Washington. The lawsuit challenged then-Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decision to restart the federal coal-leasing program without supplementing or replacing its nearly 40-year-old environmental study.
The lawsuit was jointly filed by California, New Mexico, New York and Washington in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, Great Falls Division.
Coal from federal leases following Zinke’s order would be transported by rail across Washington. In particular, coal from the Powder River Basin is shipped to or through the state. According to the Washington Department of Transportation, the baseline number of trains in 2015 numbered 70 per day on some track segments in the state, including multiple coal trains. Diesel exhaust and coal dust from uncovered coal train cars can negatively affect air quality.
Washington has a further interest in the effects of increased coal production and consumption on climate change. Washington experiences many negative effects of climate change, including rising ambient temperatures, a diminished and unpredictable snowpack necessary for water consumption and hydropower generation, and ocean warming and acidification, which is harmful to Washington’s shellfishery.
The AGO’s Counsel for Environmental Protection is handling the case for Washington.
Attorney General Ferguson created the Counsel for Environmental Protection in 2016 to protect our environment and the safety and health of all Washingtonians.
Ferguson has filed 35 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson now has 20 legal victories against the Trump Administration. Eleven of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has or may appeal the other nine, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers and 3D-printed guns. After more than two years of litigation, no court to rule on the merits of the Attorney General’s arguments in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration has ruled against the office.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org