Utah Granted Intervention in Coal Leasing Case

A Utah District Court granted the State of Utah’s motion to intervene in a lawsuit involving a coal lease application in Sanpete County. The lease, which will allow mining in the Flat Canyon tract, an adjacent property to Skyline Mine, was approved by the Bureau of Land Management in 2015 and later challenged by WildEarth Guardians and Grand Canyon Trust.  While the merits of the case have yet to be determined, District Court Judge David Nuffer concluded that Utah’s interest in the outcome was sufficient to grant the state intervener status.

Skyline Mine employs approximately 240 people, and in 2015 contributed approximately $4.75 million in revenue for Utah

The ultimate ruling in the case will have serious implications for the state. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, Skyline Mine employs approximately 240 people, and in 2015 contributed approximately $4.75 million in revenue for Utah. The Flat Canyon Lease would extend the life of the mine and therefore provide a continued source of revenue and jobs. Based on the significance of this information the Court concluded, “Utah’s expected revenue from the Skyline Mine’s expansion into the Flat Canyon lease is an economic interest meriting intervener status”.

In addition to the economic stakes, the Court also acknowledged Utah’s sovereign regulatory responsibility. The State has an independent interest in making sure coal mining is conducted in an environmentally responsible way. State approval, which may include an independent environmental analysis, is therefore a pre-requisite to federal approval of all coal mining leases. Because, as Judge Nuffer explained, the federal and state roles in granting coal leasing permits are “intertwined,” the state must be able to speak for itself in defending this particular lease in Flat Canyon tract.

As an intervener, Utah will have standing to coordinate with the Federal Defendants in making official filings in the case. The Court placed no other limitations on its intervener status.