BLM should not let Alton Coal expand in Utah

Posted: Nov 3, 2012

Written by

The Salt Lake Tribune

The Utah Supreme Court has upheld a state permit that allowed Utah’s first coal strip mine to operate just 10 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park. Now it is up to the federal Bureau of Land Management to put a stop to an expansion of the mine on 3,500 acres of federal land that would do even more serious damage to archaeological sites, wildlife habitat, air quality and scenery.

Residents of southwest Utah who rely on tourism and its steady, sustainable economic engine are worried about the Alton Coal Development expansion plan, as are the National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups.

While the BLM estimates the expanded mine near Bryce Canyon would employ 160 people, it would threaten the livelihoods of many more, who depend on local hunting, fishing and a host of other outdoor opportunities.

The existing mine is on private land, and the Utah Supreme Court ruled that the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining is not required to "consider any and every cultural and historic resource outside the permit area."

But the BLM must consider those very resources. Nonetheless, the BLM seemed to be leaning toward approving the expansion before agency managers heard complaints from the EPA and NPS. To approve the expansion would be unconscionable.

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