Dirty Coal Should Stay in the Ground

Today, the Obama Administration proposed more coal mining.  The proposal would mine over 3,500 acres of federal coal near the town of Alton, UT.  Much of the mine will be an open strip mine – removing up to 300 tons of soil and rock to get to the coal.  The dust and lights from the mine threaten the glory of the night skies in nearby Bryce Canyon National Park – known for some of the best star-gazing in the world.  The mining also threatens the small businesses in nearby Panguitch, a national historic district.  The strip mine and the daily coal truck trips through town will destroy the quiet and stunning scenery upon which the local businesses depend.

The Bureau of Land Management released today’s proposal in response to an application to lease federal coal by Alton Coal Development LLC.  The company secured permission from the State of Utah earlier this year to dig private coal in the area.  NRDC has challenged the state permit in the Utah Supreme Court.  Now, BLM has proposed to expand the mining dramatically by authorizing almost ten times the amount permitted by the state.  The state permit authorizes 2 tons of coal to be mined annually for 3 years.  The federal proposal under consideration would lease almost 60 million tons of coal over an area a quarter of the size of Manhattan.

The BLM has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  The analysis assesses the environmental consequences of the proposed mining.  The draft analysis acknowledges that the mining could result in air pollution exceeding federal standards.  The area is rich in Native American and pioneer history.  The draft analysis finds that mining will adversely impact sites eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.  The Administration will make a decision whether to proceed with the mining after reviewing the comments received.  BLM has scheduled public meetings over the next month in Alton, Kanab, Panguich, Cedar City and Salt Lake City.  The agency is also accepting comments for via mail or email until January 6, 2012.

Let’s keep this coal in the ground.  We have better options to provide a secure and prosperous energy future.  We don’t need the dirty air, dirty water and trashed land that coal mining will bring to this area.