By Jay Kohn
October 7, 2017 - Up to 80 jobs could be lost at the Signal Peak coal mine near Roundup, Montana unless a federal appeals court decides otherwise.
At stake is Signal Peak Energy's expansion at its underground coal mine in the Bull Mountains.
This past August, U.S. District Judge Don Molloy put those plans on hold, ruling that the federal Office of Surface Mining had not considered the climate change impacts of the mine's proposed 176-million ton expansion.
On Friday, Signal Peak attorneys appealed Judge Molloy's ruling, asking the appeals court to reverse the decision.
"We're trying to do everything we can to avoid layoffs of our workforce," said Mike Dawson, a Signal Peak spokesman.
"The clock is running. The judge's ruling has put jobs in jeopardy, and we're trying to convince the court that's not necessary," said Dawson.
Dawson told MTN News that without a favorable ruling from the appeals court, 30 workers would lose their jobs at the end of October, while another 50 jobs would likely be cut by the end of March.
Dawson said Signal Peak is trying to convince the court that it can comply with the court's order without laying people off.
In its appeal, the company argues that Judge Molloy should have considered impacts on the mine, and that workers could continue to do work on the mine's expansion while the government takes a closer look at the mine's application.
"We're hopeful the court will rule in our favor, and we can save those jobs," Dawson said.
Judge Molloy's initial ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Montana Environmental Information Center and The Sierra Club.
The groups claimed the government failed to consider how Signal Peak's expansion would impact air pollution, waterways, and the health of people living along the coal shipping routes. Signal Peak exports most of its coal to Asia through a terminal in Vancouver, B.C.