A Sunflower spokeswoman declined to speculate on how the judge’s ruling might affect the project. But, at best, a delay seems likely in the long-running battle between coal supporters and environmentalists in the conservative state.

Sullivan issued his ruling in late March but sealed his 54-page opinion until late April. He sided with environmentalists in deciding that RUS’ loan actions were not exempt from NEPA “pursuant to environmental policy and procedure regulations implemented by RUS.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, urged on by plant opponents, questioned portions of the state air permit.