Beset by power plant closures and changes in how they pay royalties, coal mines are facing a new obstacle — a review of how coal extracted and burned will impact the air and global warming.
Under a series of rulings by U.S. judges in Denver over the last year, federal agencies have been told to take into account the indirect environmental impacts of mining coal.
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The immediate effects appear limited to a single Colorado mine that could lose its permit if a new environmental review isn't completed.
But industry representatives fear the rulings could be used in other cases to threaten mines that make up the backbone of the coal industry. Legal experts say the cases reflect an emerging trend of linking fossil fuel extraction to climate change.