Black Mesa, AZ – A Department of Interior Administrative Law Judge withdrew Peabody Coal Company’s Life of Mine permit for operations (Black Mesa Complex) on Black Mesa, AZ, handing a major victory to tribal and environmental organizations who appealed the permit decision in January. The permit had been granted on December 22nd 2008 by the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in one of several fossil-fuel friendly 11th hour decisions by the Bush Administration.
According Judge Robert G. Holt, “OSM violated NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act] by not preparing a supplemental draft EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] when Peabody changed the proposed action. As a result, the Final EIS did not consider a reasonable range of alternatives to the new proposed action, described the wrong environmental baseline, and did not achieve the informed decision-making and meaningful public comment required by NEPA. Because of the defective Final EIS, OSM’s decision to issue a revised permit to Peabody must be vacated and remanded to OSM for further action.”
Wahleah Johns, co-director of Black Mesa Water Coalition, one of the petitioners in the appeal, issued the following statement: “As a community member of Black Mesa I am grateful for Judge Holt’s decision. For 40 years our sacred homelands and people have borne the brunt of coal mining impacts, from relocation to depletion of our only drinking water source. This ruling is an important step towards restorative justice for Indigenous communities who have suffered at the hands of multinational companies like Peabody Energy. This decision is also precedent-setting for all other communities who struggle with the complexities of NEPA laws and OSM procedures in regards to environmental protection. However, we also cannot ignore that irreversible damage of coal mining industries continues on the land, water, air, people and all living things.”