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A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a judge’s ruling overturning a federal agency’s approval of Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc.’s plan for a new open-pit copper mine in southeastern Arizona.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of a permit for the Rosemont Mine project in a valley on the eastern flank of the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson went beyond what is allowed under a federal mining law.

The appellate court cited the planned use of Coronado National Forest land for long-term storage of waste rock, not actual mining, and the lack of valuable minerals on that property.

Hudbay Minerals officials said in a statement Thursday they were reviewing the ruling and would continue to pursue alternative plans for mining part of the Rosemont copper deposit on nearby private lands.

A coalition of environmental and tribal groups challenging the mining hailed the appellate court’s decision, the latest in a series of legal obstacles to the project.

“This momentous decision makes it clear that Hudbay’s plan to destroy the beautiful Rosemont Valley is not only a terrible idea, it’s illegal,” said Allison Melton, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Hudbay has another mine project in the works on the western flank of the Santa Ritas.


A federal appeals court has refused to revisit a ruling that struck down a key permit for a proposed natural gas pipeline running through Virginia and West Virginia.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday that it would not revisit a February ruling by a three-judge panel that invalidated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s opinion that the Mountain Valley Pipeline would not jeopardize two endangered fish species.

The panel found “serious errors” with the agency’s conclusion that construction of the pipeline wouldn’t pose a threat to the Roanoke logperch or the candy darter.

The February ruling came one week after the same three-judge panel rejected a permit that would have allowed the pipeline to pass through a 3.5 mile (5.6 kilometer) section of the Jefferson National Forest. In both cases, the judges faulted the U.S. Forest Service and the wildlife agency for failing to adequately assess the pipeline’s environmental impact.

The 303-mile (487-kilometer) pipeline, which is mostly finished, would transport natural gas drilled from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations through West Virginia and Virginia.

The Roanoke Times reports that Mountain Valley now has little hope of obtaining the required approvals without going through a renewed permitting process. The $6.2 billion infrastructure project has been targeted by about a dozen environmental groups and is already more than three years behind schedule.

While acknowledging a “greater degree of uncertainty” following Friday’s court decision, a spokeswoman for Mountain Valley told the newspaper that its plans are still alive.


An Illinois appellate court has set aside a decision by state regulators that would allow the Dakota Access oil pipeline to double capacity to 1.1 million barrels daily.

In a 60-page decision filed Wednesday, the appellate court’s three-judge panel ordered the Illinois Commerce Commission to review the public need for the project that moves North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois. The court said the commission must consider the public need “for the people of the United States, not the world.”

The court said regulators must also consider regulatory violations in Pennsylvania by Sunoco, one of the pipeline’s owners.

It ordered Illinois regulators to issue a new decision within 11 months, while restricting the pipeline’s capacity to 570,000 barrels per day.

The $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile (1,886 kilometer) underground pipeline has been moving oil since 2017. It was subject to prolonged protests and hundreds of arrests during its construction in North Dakota in late 2016 and early 2017 because it crosses beneath the Missouri River, just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The tribe draws its water from the river and fears pollution.

Texas-based Energy Transfer, which built the pipeline, has insisted it would be safe and that the expansion would be, too.

Opponents argue that moving more oil through the pipeline increases the probability of a disastrous oil spill.

North Dakota regulators in 2020 unanimously approved expanded capacity for the Dakota Access pipeline from 570,000 barrels daily to 1.1 million barrels, saying they believed the project had met exhaustive state and federal requirements. Pipeline backers said the expansion was needed to meet the growing demand for oil shipments from North Dakota, without the need for additional pipelines or rail shipments.

Additional pump stations were needed in the Dakotas and Illinois to add horsepower to push more oil through the line. Regulators in those states approved the additional stations.

In Illinois, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others protested the commission’s approval, sending it to the appellate court.

Pipeline owners announced last summer that the line was able to transport 750,000 barrels a day along the line. But North Dakota Pipeline Authority Director Justin Kringstad said Thursday that amount likely has not been achieved to date.

North Dakota’s oil production is 1.1 million barrels daily at present. Rail and other pipelines ship oil that doesn’t move on the Dakota Access pipeline.


Attorneys for a Louisiana oil and gas company have asked a federal judge to reinstate a drilling lease it held on land considered sacred to Native American tribes in the U.S. and Canada.

The long-disputed energy lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of northwestern Montana near the Blackfeet Reservation was cancelled in 2016 under then-U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. That decision was upheld by a federal appeals court last year.

Now Solenex LLC — the company that held the lease — is making another run at getting a court to restore its drilling rights. In court documents filed Thursday in a lawsuit against the Interior Department, its attorneys argued that Jewell exceeded her authority and the lease should be reinstated.

Solenex founder Sidney Longwell, who died last year, bought the 10-square-mile (25-square-kilometer) lease in 1982 but never drilled on the site. Instead, Longwell confronted major bureaucratic delays within the U.S. departments of Interior and Agriculture that prompted the company to sue in 2013.

The Badger-Two-Medicine area near Glacier National Park is the site of the creation story of the Blackfoot tribes of southern Canada and Montana’s Blackfeet Nation. There have been efforts to declare it a national monument or make it a cultural heritage area, and tribal leaders have bitterly opposed Solenex’s drilling aspirations.

The Blackfeet have intervened in the case on the side of the government. Blackfeet Nation historic preservation officer John Murray said tribal officials were confident in the case against drilling.


The Canadian company argued that a 2019 lawsuit filed in a state court by Attorney General Dana Nessel should be heard by U.S. District Judge Janet Neff, who last month retained jurisdiction over a separate case initiated by the state of Michigan to halt the flow of oil through Enbridge’s Line 5.

“We are hopeful that the attorney general will agree that it makes sense for her case and the Enbridge case to be decided by the federal court rather than risk duplicative litigation and inconsistent results,” spokesman Ryan Duffy said.

But Nessel said the “outrageous maneuver” violates a federal rule that moving cases from one court to another must be done within 30 days of the initial filing.

“We will address this flagrant attempt to undermine that process in court and remain fervently committed to our belief that the fate of Michigan’s greatest natural resources should be determined in a Michigan court,” Nessel said.

Enbridge’s gambit was the latest twist in a multi-year political and legal battle over Line 5, which carries about 23 million gallons (87 million liters) daily of crude oil and natural gas liquids between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario.

It passes through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is part of an Enbridge network transporting Canadian crude to refineries in both nations.

A 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) section is divided into two pipes that cross the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. Environmental groups and Indigenous tribes contend they risk a spill that could pollute hundreds of miles of water and shorelines, while Enbridge says they’ve never leaked and are in sound condition.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Enbridge in November 2020 to close the 68-year-old line, revoking a 1953 state easement allowing its placement in the straits. The company, based in Calgary, Alberta, filed a federal lawsuit and ignored the Democratic governor’s May 12 shutdown deadline.

Nessel, who had sued in state court to enforce Whitmer’s order, urged Neff to return the case to state court. But the judge ruled last month that it was “properly in federal court” because it raises issues “under consideration at the highest levels of this country’s government.”

They include Canada’s invocation of a 1977 treaty with the U.S. involving oil shipments between the two nations and federal pipeline safety regulation, Neff said.

Whitmer and Nessel responded this month by dropping their 2020 lawsuit and refocusing attention on the 2019 case filed in Michigan’s Ingham County. It argues that Line 5′s presence in the straits violates the public trust and state environmental law.


Two courtrooms in Columbus’ main government building are reopening after tests found a ruptured pipe did not introduce mold or harmful fungi into the air.

A ruptured drainpipe from the roof had dumped leaves, bird feces and other debris into the 11th-floor office of Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Gil McBride in June.

Documents obtained by the Ledger-Enquirer show tests of pipe debris showed no fungi associated with bird and bat droppings that can cause infections in people with weakened immune systems. Samples also showed no significant amounts of mold. Mold levels in the outside air were higher, suggesting the building’s air filtration system is working.

“The courts have been assured by the city that the courtrooms are safe for public use,” McBride wrote in a text message. “This is good news, especially for judges who were without courtrooms for next week.”

The 51-year-old building flooded because of water leaks twice in 2018.

Columbus leaders say they plan to ask voters to approve a special sales tax in November to repair or replace the building.

A nearly 80-pound panel fell in a seventh-floor courtroom and hit a court official a few weeks ago, prompting safety inspections of all courtrooms. Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson could not be reached Friday for an update on inspections.

McBride said Muscogee County jurors will continue to be selected at the municipal ice rink for now. Once jurors are selected, trials will take place in the regular courtrooms.


A federal judge has issued a summary judgment in favor of Washington state against two gold mining companies over years of water pollution stemming from the Buckhorn Mountain gold mine in Okanogan County.

U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson on Thursday dismissed the companies’ main defenses, writing there was no support for their claims that the state Attorney General cannot enforce all of the mine’s Clean Water Act permit.

The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson contended that Crown Resources and Kinross Gold violated the law by discharging illegal levels of pollutants into creeks in Okanogan County flowing into the Kettle River.

Now the focus shifts to how much the companies will owe for the violations. They potentially face millions of dollars in penalties for their pollution, and the judge will decide how much.

“Crown and Kinross knew even before the mine’s construction that it could release significant contamination, including arsenic and chloride, into surrounding waters, yet plowed ahead anyway,” Ferguson said. “Washington takes our water quality seriously.”

Crown Resources and its parent company, Kinross Gold, own the 50-acre underground mine located approximately 100 miles northeast of Twisp. From 2008 to 2017, the companies extracted approximately $1.3 billion in gold from the mine. Ore extraction stopped in 2017, but contaminants continue to be released from the mine.

Crown Resources said it was disappointed by the ruling and reviewing its appeal options.

“The company maintains that the current discharge permit is unreasonable, based on flawed assumptions and did not properly consider the natural background levels nor previously permitted mine activities,” the company said in a news release.

“Crown has adhered to the highest environmental standards during operation and closure of the Buckhorn Mine, which has resulted in discharge water at or below drinking water standards,” the company said.

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