BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Coal industry representatives say lawsuits against mines in the West could have consequences across the U.S. as environmentalists seek changes in how mining is approved on federally owned reserves.
In civil cases unfolding in Colorado, New Mexico and Montana, the group WildEarth Guardians asserts coal companies benefited from lax oversight by federal regulators.
The group says the U.S. Department of Interior approved mining plans without enough public involvement and gave little heed to the pollution caused by digging, shipping and burning coal. It wants mining stopped until the plans are re-done.
The cases involve the San Juan coal mine in New Mexico, the Colowyo and Trapper mines in Colorado, and the Spring Creek mine in Montana.
Attorneys for the federal government deny the environmentalists' claims and want the cases dismissed.