Two advocacy groups on Dec. 15 filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Colorado alleging that the federal government and the U.S. Department of the Interior violated the law by failing to require a Colorado coal mine operator to conduct a thorough analysis of the mine's effects on nearby groundwater before approving the site's expansion.
Attorney Jared Pettinato, on behalf of the groups Citizens for Constitutional Integrity and Southwest Advocates, in the complaint said GCC Energy, the operator of the King II Mine, is failing to sufficiently monitor groundwater and impacts from diverting the La Plata River. In doing so, it is violating the Stream Protection Rule, which Congress rescinded in 2017. Pettinato alleges that this rollback was unconstitutional, thereby voiding Congress's actions.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management in June 2020 approved an expansion of the King II Mine that would increase the site by 2,462 acres. The expansion is pending approval from the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, a division of DOI. Due to OSMRE's failure to enforce the Stream Protection Rule, the complaint says the court should vacate the mine expansion.
Although the King II Mine primarily supplies coal for cement-production operations in Mexico, a favorable outcome in the lawsuit would potentially apply nationwide. "We hope to restore the Stream Protection Rule," Pettinato told California Energy Markets in a phone interview. "It would apply to all coal mines going forward. It would be a huge change."