Microsoft Co-Founder Backs Lawsuit Over Coal Leasing

Nov 25, 2014

Trucks haul coal at the Eagle Butte Coal Mine outside of Gillette, Wyoming.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

With backing from the co-founder of Microsoft, two environmental groups filed suit Tuesday over the federal government’s coal leasing program.

More than 40 percent of the coal mined in the United States is on federal land -- including most of the coal in places like Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. The Bureau of Land Management program for leasing that coal was last overhauled more than 30 years ago. Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils argue in the lawsuit that climate change science has progressed since then, but the agency’s rules haven’t. 

The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, is funding the litigation. His spokeswoman, Alexa Rudin, says the current approach to climate change is unsustainable. "And we believe that looking at the federal coal leasing program is a really impactful and effective way to have an immediate impact on reducing carbon emissions into our environment,” she said.

This isn’t the first time the BLM leasing program has come under fire in recent years -- reports from government watchdogs and policymakers have suggested that the program is out of date and needs to be overhauled.