By St. Louis Business Journal

A judge on Monday rejected Arch Coal Inc.â¿¿s attempt to dismiss lawsuits filed last year by four environmental groups challenging the St. Louis companyâ¿¿s lease with Montana.

District Judge Joe Hegel sided with the Northern Plains Resource Council, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Montana Environmental Information Center, which sued Arch after it bought a lease on the undeveloped Otter Creek coal reserves near Ashland, Mont., for $86 million and future royalties, under a deal approved by the Montana Land Board, the Associated Press reports. Environmentalists argue that the deal should have been reviewed under the Montana Environmental Policy Act, while Arch argues that such a review should be done before mining, not at the leasing stage.

Kim Link, a spokeswoman for Arch Coal, said she could not discuss a still-pending suit. Instead, she said, "Arch Coal's commitment to our neighbors and the land is exemplified by our strong environmental record and dozens of national and state honors for good citizenship and reclamation. We believe increasingly clean coal use is essential for securing our national energy supplies and reaching our climate goals."

St. Louis-based Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI), led by Chairman and CEO Steven Leer, is the second-largest U.S. coal producer with revenue of $2.6 billion in 2009.

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