Western coal leasing by feds challenged in court

Billings, Mont. – Environmental groups are challenging the Obama administration's plan to lease vast coal reserves in the nation's largest coal producing region.

The lawsuit announced Tuesday challenges coal leasing in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana.

The region produces almost half the nation's coal. It has seen a sharp increase in mining in recent decades as production in Eastern states tapers.

The suit challenges a 1990 decision to "decertify" the Powder River Basin as a coal producing region. Plaintiffs say the decision allowed the government to avoid environmental reviews - including the climate change impacts of burning of billions tons of coal now up for leasing.

The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and WildEarth Guardians filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.