By Tom Halvorson
May 24, 2023 - We have seen shortages of things like eggs and baby formula. Imagine the shortage of energy and products that would result from eliminating 40% of the coal mined in the United States.
As far-reaching and unimaginable as that might seem, a federal court in Montana appears set to do just that. The same judge who attempted to eliminate irrigation from the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers is now commanding the Bureau of Land Management to consider eliminating coal mining on federal lands in the Power River Basin. The Basin includes Richland County and much of Eastern Montana. He does this despite realizing in his order that “The Powder River Basin also yields approximately 40% of all coal extracted in the United States.” (Western Organization of Resource Council v. U.S. BLM, 4:20-cv-76-BMMm)
Ever since its creation, Congress gave the BLM its mandate to administer federal lands with a balanced multiple-use policy. The court’s order commands the Bureau, in effect, to consider violating its mandate of multiple-use by court-ordered elimination of use for coal.
How, you might ask, could a court pretend to have that power? What reasoning does it use?
Read its opinions and orders and you will see a sophisticated, high-minded, hyper-intellectual focus on the trees that loses sight of the forest. Way down in the nuts and bolts, the court thinks it understands the machine, so to speak. But when, because of the court’s orders, the machine does not produce its designed product of multiple use, the court breaks the machine.
In obedience to the court’s orders, the BLM has formulated a set of alternatives named Alternative A, B, C, and D. The alternatives would reduce federal lands available for coal from 1,214,380 acres in A, to 57,940 in B, to 810 in C, and to 0 (zero) in D.
Theoretically, this is to save the planet from climate change. Of course, we should keep the planet clean and healthy. But again, the court sees trees and not the forest. National Public Radio reported in March this year that China is opening two new coal-fired power plants per week. Citing a report by Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, NPR said “China has six times as much plants starting construction as the rest of the world combined.”
So, is this about climate change and the environment? Or is it just one more front in industrial rivalry between China and the U.S.? The judge is an Obama-Biden appointee. The court’s orders in this and other cases correspond to Obama-Biden policy on China and diminishing the United States.
The State of Wyoming understands. It intervened in the case to try to do us some good. Meanwhile Montana is asleep at the wheel.