Utah Supreme Court Issues Decision on Large-Scale Coal Strip Mine


October 30, 2012

Tim Wagner, Sierra Club, 801.467.9294
Steve Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.859.1552 (cell)
Josh Mogerman, Natural Resources Defense Council, 312.651.7909

Utah Supreme Court Issues Decision on Large-Scale Coal Strip Mine that Would Have Devastating Effects on Southern Utah

Coal Mine Threatens Sage Grouse, Tourism Economy and Bryce Canyon National Park

Salt Lake City, UT – In a decision issued earlier this morning, the Utah Supreme Court upheld a state mining permit that allows Alton Coal Development to strip mine roughly 600 acres of private lands – the Coal Hollow Mine. The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Parks Conservation Association reaffirmed their commitment to protect the local environment key to southern Utah’s tourism-oriented economy. The Utah Supreme Court’s ruling sets the stage for a broader fight over the proposed expansion of the private mine onto 3,500 acres of publicly owned land within a dozen miles of Bryce Canyon National Park.

In addition to impacting local air and water quality, threatening Bryce Canyon National Park’s renown night skies, and decimating North America’s southern-most population of sage grouse, the proposed around the clock mining operations would require up to 300 coal truck trips per day traveling 110 miles one-way from Alton to Cedar City, which would result in one truck leaving the site every seven minutes.

“Today’s decision is disappointing,” said Steve Bloch with Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “However, this is too important. We will continue to fight to preserve the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the night skies at Bryce Canyon National Park enjoyed by thousands of tourists each year.”

After receiving nearly 200,000 comments from federal agencies, the Hopi Tribe, and concerned citizens – including small business owners, doctors, and environmentalists – the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) committed to taking another look at the health and environmental impacts of the proposed expansion onto federal lands, with further environmental review expected in 2013. Earlier this year, both the National Park Service and Fish & Wildlife Service criticized the proposed expansion and urged BLM to reject the project.

“This is simply the wrong place and the wrong time for another coal mine” added Tim Wagner, with the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We should be investing in clean, responsible energies instead of doubling down on old, dirty, fossil fuels. BLM should do what is best for Southern Utah rather than what is best for one private company.”

“A strip mine is not the sort of canyon tourists are flocking to see,” said Natural Resources Defense Council Deputy Media Director Josh Mogerman. “This project needlessly threatens the area’s tourism economy. Those jobs are on the line, when a project robs the area of the pristine night skies and beautiful vistas at Bryce Canyon National Park that draws visitors from around the country. They don’t come here to see a strip mine. And when our nation is moving towards a clean energy economy to deliver jobs and prosperity, this new coal mine would be a big step backwards.”

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