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Mar 1, 2013 - The Associated Press

State mines among those challenged

BILLINGS, Mont. -- An environmental group seeking to temporarily halt mining at seven coal mines in four states has sued the federal government, saying Thursday the approval of the mines allowed companies to dig up a combined 1.3 billion tons of the fuel across the Rocky Mountain West.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado by WildEarth Guardians alleges the Department of Interior approvals were illegal because no public notice was given.

The lawsuit contends that coal mining pollutes the air, water and land, and that under federal environmental law the public should have been given a chance to weigh in before mining plans were approved in four states.

The approvals were given between 2007 and 2012.

The Department of Interior did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"This first and foremost is a transparency case, but hopefully we can get some review of the environmental impact as well," said WildEarth Guardians' Jeremy Nichols.

Nichols said his group will seek a court-ordered stay on mining if a judge agrees

The mines named in the lawsuit are the San Juan mine in New Mexico; Colowyo and Trapper mines in Colorado; Black Thunder, Cordero Rojo and School Creek mines in Wyoming and Spring Creek mine in Montana.

Oil/gas chief candidates apply

CASPER -- Wyoming could be closer to getting a permanent oil and gas supervisor.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has been getting new applications for the job since state lawmakers relaxed qualifications for the job.

The commission plans to interview the next round of candidates for the job on March 12.

Commission member Ryan Lance said the panel is working to set up interviews with two candidates so far.

Previously, the supervisor had to be a licensed engineer or geologist in Wyoming but lawmakers removed that requirement at the request of the commission.

It offered the job to a candidate in November, but that person turned it down.

Bob King has been serving as interim supervisor since Tom Doll quit in June.

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