Thursday, July 03, 2014

Federal judge blocks underground coal mine expansion, saying climate change not considered

A federal judge has blocked the proposed expansion of an underground coal mine on federal land in Colorado "because federal agencies failed to consider the future global-warming damages from burning fossil fuels," John Cushman reports for InsideClimate News. U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson said that when agencies touted the economic benefits of Arch Coal's proposal they should have considered climate-change effects, including the bulldozing of six miles of roads on 1,700 acres of public land in the Sunset Roadless Area in Summit County.

"The decision was a significant judicial endorsement of a policy tool known as the 'social cost of carbon,' which economists and climate scientist use to put a price in today's dollars on the damages from drought, flood, storm, fire, disease and so forth caused by future global warming due to our emissions from burning fossil fuels," Cushman writes.

In his decision Jackson wrote, "It is arbitrary to offer detailed projections of a project's upside while omitting a feasible projection of the project's costs . . . By deciding not to quantify the costs at all, the agencies effectively zeroed out the cost," a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, Cushman writes. "Common sense tells me that quantifying the effect of greenhouse gases in dollar terms is difficult at best," Jackson wrote. "The critical importance of the subject, however, tells me that a 'hard look' has to include a 'hard look' at whether this tool, however imprecise it might be, would contribute to a more informed assessment of the impacts than if it were simply ignored." (Read more)

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