Description: Citizen suit asserting that coal mine required air permits.
WildEarth Guardians v. Mountain Coal Co.
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 01/18/2022 Consent Decree Download Consent decree approved and entered. Colorado Federal Court Approved Consent Decree in Clean Air Act Citizen Suit Against Coal Mine Operators. The federal district court for the District of Colorado approved and entered a consent decree resolving a citizen suit brought by environmental groups against the operators of the West Elk coal mine in Colorado for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. The consent decree requires the defendants to continue to pursue a Title V operating permit for the mine and requires the defendants to flare emissions from the mine’s ventilation boreholes in accordance with the Mine Safety and Health Administration Ventilation Plan for the mine until the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issues a final Title V permit. Once the permit is issued, the consent decree requires the defendants to comply with the permit’s provisions for two years and to provide the plaintiffs with notice of any deviation from the permit’s requirements within 30 days of commencement of the deviation. The defendants also must pay $135,000 to the plaintiffs’ counsel for the costs of litigation. The plaintiffs cited both volatile organic compound and methane emissions as concerns during the litigation. 11/23/2021 Consent Decree Download Joint motion to lodge and enter consent decree filed. Settlement Reached in Clean Air Act Citizen Suit Against Coal Mine Operators. Environmental groups and coal company defendants filed a joint motion to lodge a consent decree that would resolve the groups’ citizen suit alleging that the companies violated the Clean Air Act by operating the West Elk coal mine without a Title V operating permit. The consent decree would require the defendants to flare emissions from the mine’s ventilation boreholes in accordance with the Mine Safety and Health Administration Ventilation Plan for the mine until the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issues a final Title V permit. The defendants would also have to pay $135,000 to the plaintiffs’ counsel for the costs of litigation. The plaintiffs cited both volatile organic compound and methane emissions as concerns during the litigation. 10/26/2021 Order Motion for stay granted. The court granted a motion to stay all deadlines in the litigation pending approval of the settlement and directed the parties to file the motion for approval or a report on the status of negotiations by November 19, 2021. 10/25/2021 Motion Download Joint motion for stay of all deadlines pending approval of settlement filed. 10/25/2021 Notice Download Parties filed notice of agreement in principle to settle. 09/30/2021 Order Download Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment granted in part and denied in part. Colorado Federal Court Found Issues of Fact as to Whether Coal Mine’s Emissions Counted Towards Permitting Threshold. On September 30, 2021, the federal district court for the District of Colorado found that four environmental groups had standing in their Clean Air Act citizen suit against the operators of a coal mine for operating without a Title V operating permit, but the court denied the groups’ motion for summary judgment on the Title V claim. The court found that the plaintiffs had not established the absence of an issue of material fact as to whether the mine’s emissions were “fugitive” emissions that did not count towards the permitting threshold. In their motion for summary judgment on the issue of standing, the plaintiffs argued that the relief they sought would redress their injuries, including because the permits would likely require reduction of emissions of both volatile organic compounds and methane, which are emitted from the mine’s ventilation air system. 03/30/2021 Order Download Motion to dismiss granted in part and denied in part. District Court Said Plaintiffs Could Proceed with Title V Permit Claim Against Coal Mine Operator. The federal district court for the District of Colorado allowed WildEarth Guardians to proceed with their claim that a coal mine owner and operator failed to obtain a Title V operating permit for the mine but accepted a magistrate judge’s recommendation that a claim alleging that the defendants should have obtained a Prevention of Significant Deterioration construction permit for the expansion should be dismissed. The district court concluded that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged that the Title V permit claim was not time-barred. 03/09/2021 Reply Download Reply filed by plaintiffs in support of objections to recommendation. 02/23/2021 Response Download Response filed by defendants to plaintiffs' objections to recommendation. 02/09/2021 Objection Download Objections to recommendation filed by plaintiffs. 01/26/2021 Report and Recommendation Download Recommendation issued that defendants' motion to dismiss be granted. Magistrate Judge Recommended Dismissal of Citizen Suit Challenging Permitting for Underground Coal Mine. A magistrate judge in the federal district court for the District of Colorado recommended that the court grant an underground coal mine operator’s motion to dismiss a Clean Air Act citizen suit that alleged the mine required a Prevention of Significant Deterioration construction permit and a Title V operating permit. The magistrate judge concluded that the suit was barred by the statute of limitations. 11/18/2020 Motion for Summary Judgment Download Motion for partial summary judgment filed by plaintiffs. 09/16/2020 Reply Download Reply filed in support of motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations. 09/14/2020 Amicus Brief Download Brief filed by amicus curiae Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Air Pollution Control Division. 08/18/2020 Opposition Download Opposition filed by plaintiffs to defendants' motion to dismiss. 07/14/2020 Motion to Dismiss Download Motion to dismiss based on statute of limitations filed by defendants. 05/12/2020 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Citizen Suit Asserted that West Elk Coal Mine Required Air Permits. Four environmental groups filed a Clean Air Act citizen suit against the operators of the West Elk coal mine in Colorado for failing to obtain air permits. The plaintiffs identified the citizen suit as related to a case filed in 2019 in which the plaintiffs successfully challenged an Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) approval for expansion of the mine. The plaintiffs noted that the court had remanded the earlier case to OSM for consideration of a flaring option for controlling the mine’s emissions of methane and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and to assess how the mine’s methane emissions contribute to climate change. The plaintiffs said the new case involved the permitting of VOC and methane emissions. 05/12/2020 Notice Download Notice of related case filed by plaintiffs.