Tuesday, July 28, 2009

WildEarth Guardians v. US Forest Service

Jul 24: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, Case No. 09-1089. The appellant, Mountain Coal Company (MCC), owns and operates the West Elk Mine, a large underground coal mine lying beneath the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests in Colorado. After the United States Forest Service approved plans for venting methane gas from the mine, WildEarth Guardians brought suit against the Forest Service, the Department of Interior, and several of their officials under the Administrative Procedure Act, contending that the approval violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). MCC moved to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24.

The district court denied the motion and MCC appealed. Because “[a]n order denying intervention is final and subject to immediate review if it prevents the applicant from becoming a party to an action,” Coalition of Ariz./N.M. Counties for Stable Econ. Growth v. Dep’t of the Interior, 100 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1996) (Coalition). The Appeals Court concluded that MCC is entitled to intervene as of right, and accordingly reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the case with instructions to grant MCC’s motion to intervene.

The Appeals Court ruled, "We are convinced that MCC has established a possibility of inadequate representation. . . the government has multiple objectives and could well decide to embrace some of the environmental goals of WildEarth. Therefore, MCC should not be required to rely on the defendants to represent its interests."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).

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