Northern Cheyenne Sue to Block Coal Mining on Public Lands

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The Northern Cheyenne Nation has duked it out with coal now and again over the past 40 years to protect their pristine water quality, and air so clean it is designated as a Class 1 Airshed, meaning it’s a federal benchmark for how air should be.

The tribe’s latest salvo is a lawsuit filed in federal district court challenging a decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior to lift a moratorium on coal leases on public land that could disproportionately affect their Montana reservation, yet omitted the Tribe from any notice or consultation.

The Northern Cheyenne reservation sits in the midst of approximately 426 million tons of coal, and pending coal leases that can now move forward. The tribe’s March 30 lawsuit said coal mining near the reservation would cause “significant environmental and socioeconomic harms to the Tribe.” Such mining would ultimately destroy the traditional way of life they have fought to preserve for centuries, Tribal Council Chair and President Jace Killsback said.


The Tongue River, which flows through the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, could be contaminated by coal mining, the tribe fears.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed the order on March 29, never acknowledging the Northern Cheyenne’s letter to the Interior Department earlier in the month that requested government-to-government consultation before the agency made any decision to lift or modify the moratorium.

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