Another win for climate: Federal court rejects Utah coal mine expansion

  A federal judge rejected a coal mine expansion in southern Utah, finding that the Trump administration illegally failed to account for the climate costs of authorizing more mining at the doorstep of Bryce Canyon National Park.

First proposed in 2011, the Alton coal lease would have opened the door for strip mining on 2,114 acres in southern Utah, allowing the Alton Coal Company to extract more than 30 million tons of coal from the Coal Hollow mine. The mining was ultimately approved in 2018 by the Trump administration. Shortly after, WildEarth Guardians, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and Grand Canyon Trust filed suit.

The lawsuit challenged the approval on the ground that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had failed to fully disclose and analyze the mine’s impact on climate change and mercury pollution as required by federal law.

In the ruling, the court held the Bureau of Land Management violated the law in touting the supposed economic benefits of the mine without including a discussion of the economic costs associated with climate change in the same discussion.

The court also agreed with plaintiffs that the Bureau of Land Management had not adequately addressed the cumulative climate impact of the mine when considered together with other fossil fuel projects that contribute to climate change, including pollution from transporting and burning the coal at the nearly Intermountain Power coal plant in southern Utah.

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