Lawsuit seeks improved pollution and climate analysis of the Alton coal mine expansion in Utah.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – A lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s approval of Alton Coal’s mine expansion near Bryce Canyon National Park was filed today by Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Grand Canyon Trust, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and WildEarth Guardians. The organizations filed a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) challenge to the recent approval of the expanded mine, which would extract millions of tons of coal and exacerbate climate change impacts including air pollution and other threats.
In August of 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved an environmental report that allows Alton to expand its mine onto 2,114 acres of public land to extract more than 30 million tons of coal. The complaint argues that BLM failed to analyze the impacts of mercury pollution from burning coal, did not consider the enormous social costs of increased carbon emissions, and refused to take a broader, more cumulative look at the climate impacts of this project as is required under NEPA.
In addition to these pollution and climate impacts, the coal mine expansion threatens natural resources and animals, including North America’s southernmost population of Greater Sage Grouse. Expanding the coal mine onto publicly owned land threatens to negatively impact the visitor experience at nearby Bryce Canyon National Park and will infringe upon numerous activities that thousands of people enjoy in Utah.
“The expansion of the strip mine operation near Bryce Canyon National Park is the latest in a series of actions by BLM focused on degrading our public lands in the interest of short-term gains from energy extraction,” according to Cory MacNulty, Associate Director of the Southwest Region at the National Parks Conservation Association. “Expansive views across the colorful hoodoos, clean clear air, natural quiet and dark, starry night skies are integral to the national park experience at Bryce Canyon–yet all are at risk from expansion of the Alton coal mine.”
“The country surrounding the mine is so spectacular that it’s hard to imagine any reckoning that could justify strip-mining coal there,” said Aaron Paul, a staff attorney for the Grand Canyon Trust. “But the least our government should do before auctioning off our public-lands inheritance to run coal-fired power plants is tell us roughly how much the resulting climate debt will impoverish us all.”
“The medical research on air pollution is well established–there is no safe level of air pollution exposure. Even levels far below the EPA’s national standards precipitate a long list of human diseases, acceleration of the aging process and premature death. The pollution from the mine itself and the transportation and burning of the coal represents a multi-stage health hazard to people throughout Southern Utah and beyond. The BLM pretended that was not an issue,” said Jonny Vasic, Executive Director for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
About National Parks Conservation Association: For 100 years, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org/100
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Former West Coast Communications Manager