Montana Attorney General Tim Fox Defends Coal Lease Decision, Intervenes in Lawsuit

Responding to a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court against the U.S. Department of Interior, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox filed for intervention Thursday on behalf of the state of Montana, defending the U.S. DOI’s reversal of the Obama Administration’s moratorium on federal coal leases.

The lawsuit–filed by multiple environmental groups as well as attorneys general from New Mexico, California, New York and Washington–seeks to reverse a March 29 Secretarial Order issued by U.S. Department of Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, which ended the Obama Administration’s moratorium on issuing coal mining leases on federal land. Montana has an estimated 25-percent of the nation’s recoverable coal reserves.

“Secretary Zinke acted within his authority under the law to reverse a discretionary policy of the previous administration, and the lawsuits objecting to the new policy are purely political and ideological in nature,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “The state of Montana has a significant stake in the continuation of federal coal leases, and is well-positioned to benefit from increased coal mining on our federal lands.”

Attorney General Fox’s petition for intervention states:

“Montana seeks to intervene in this case because it has a significant interest in ensuring that federal coal leasing located within the State continues. Montana would be grievously harmed if the Interest Groups and Plaintiff States prevail.”

In fiscal year 2016 alone, the Department of Interior Office of Natural Resources Revenue reported a total of $31.5 million as coal royalties from federal lands within Montana. $15.4 million of which were paid to the state.

Fox also argues that, because Montana has a significant stake in the outcome of the case, the state must be granted intervention as only Montana can adequately represent its own unique interests.

The case was filed before Federal District Court Judge Brian Morris, in Great Falls.

Click here to view the Attorney General’s filing.