Greens Fight Expansion of Giant Coal Mines

      DENVER (CN) – The U.S. Forest Service illegally approved expansion of coal mines on public land that produce 5 million tons of coal a year, the WildEarth Guardians claim in court.
     The environmental nonprofit sued the Secretary of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service on Friday, challenging the expansion of the Flat Canyon Coal Lease, which expanded the area on which the Skyline Mines transport and burn the coal they supply to power plants in Nevada and Utah and to export overseas. The land in the lease underlies part of the 1.2 million acre Manti-La Sal National Forest in Utah and Colorado, Utah’s second-highest range after the Uintahs.
     According to the Union Pacific Railroad website, checked Monday morning, The Skyline Mine complex produces about 5 million tons a year on 6,400 acres of federal and county lands. It can load up to 10,000 tons of coal on trains in 2 hours.
     “In approving expanded mining – and in turn the inevitable transport and burning of coal – federal defendants refused to acknowledge the very real and serious air quality and climate implications of their actions,” the environmental group says in the complaint.
     It claims the defendants used outdated, 15-year-old data for the “uninformed” approval of the lease. Under the Mineral Leasing Act, the BLM is legally obligated to reject any lease that “for environmental or other sufficient reasons, would be contrary to the public interest.” But the final environmental impact statement contains “no public interest analysis” at all, WildEarth says.
     “Mining activities on the Flat Canyon Lease, individually and when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future activities have potentially significant direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on air quality and climate affecting communities and the environment in the region,” the complaint states.
     “In spite of this, neither BLM nor the Forest Service analyzed air quality and climate impacts, including carbon costs, associated with expanding the Skyline Mine.”
     The Skyline Mine, based in Utah, is owned by Bowie Resource Partners, which exports up to 3 million tons of coal a year, including to areas in the Pacific Rim.
     WildEarth wants the lease vacated until all parties have complied with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Mineral Leasing Act. It is represented by house attorneys Samantha Ruscavage-Barz in Santa Fe, N.M., and Sarah McMillan, in Missoula, Mont.

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