A federal district judge has declined to block Interior Secretary James G. Watt's planned lease sale on Wednesday of 510 million tons of government-owned coal in North Dakota. But the leases will not be issued, the government agreed, until the court rules on charges by two environmental groups that the leasing program poses a danger to air quality and wildlife near proposed mines.
The district court will hear arguments on the environmentalists' lawsuit on Oct. 21, according to the agreement. The environmentalists are seeking to enforce a resolution by the House Interior Committee last month that declared the 20,900-acre area temporarily off-limits to coal development.
Watt argues he is not bound by the committee vote, because it amounts to a one-house veto, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional earlier this year.
In response to a query from The Denver Post, Interior Department officials said they have done a statistical study to determine whether Watt has made more addresses to religious organizations than his predecessors did. The answer is no, said a spokesman, but the supporting documents have been misplaced.
The review was carried out after Watt addressed several fundamentalist Christian audiences, particularly a Sacramento appearance in which he likened support for legalized abortion to "the forces that created the Holocaust."