Montana's largest coal mine has hit a major legal setback.
Late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Watters of Billings blocked the proposed expansion of the Spring Creek Coal Mine located near Decker in southeastern Montana.
Watters ruled that in granting the new permit, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining ignored the climate, environmental, and health consequences of additional coal mining.
The 117-million-ton expansion was approved by the Obama administration and would have extended the operating life of the mine for another 6.5 years.
Two years ago, the mine's former owner, Cloud Peak Energy, filed for bankruptcy.
The mine was then purchased by Navajo Transitional Energy, but due to the pandemic, Navajo furloughed most of its workforce for a four-month period.
Currently, the Spring Creek Mine currently employs 250 workers.
Watters' ruling means the Office of Surface Mining now has 240 days to conduct a new environmental assessment of the proposed expansion.
Neither Navajo Energy nor the U.S. Interior Department has commented on the ruling.