"The mine site is at the foot of the famous Pink Cliffs on the west side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, home of some of the country's most majestic mule deer."
What is the Alton Coal Strip Mine?
The Alton Coal Mine, owned by Alton Coal Development LLC, is a 600-acre coal strip mine located in Alton, Utah. The mine’s location is 12 miles southwest of Bryce Canyon National Park and 25 miles northeast of Zion National Park. The company that operates the mine is seeking to expand operation onto 3,500 acres of federally-owned public lands, further encroaching on lands that border the national parks.
What is the current status of the proposed expansion?
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently completing a supplemental environmental impact statement of the proposed mine expansion, which follows previous environmental reviews that have recommended approval of the expansion project. The Alton Coal Mine currently operates under a surface mining permit that was approved by the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining in 2009. That state permitting decision was previously challenged by the Sierra Club, along with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Parks Conservation Association. However, the Utah Supreme Court upheld the Board’s permitting decision in 2012, which has allowed the Alton Coal Mine to continue operation while seeking further expansion.
Why does the Sierra Club oppose this project?
This proposed action does not move us closer to creating a future of clean energy and sustainable communities. At a time when the environmental impacts of coal mining and coal-fired power plants are well-known, expanding a coal strip mine onto federal lands is not a smart decision. This proposed expansion would further threaten two of America’s National Parks, as well as the air, water, wildlife, and natural wonders of Southern Utah. Potential impacts include the darkening of night skies with dust, the destruction of wildlife habitat, the creation of noise pollution, and toxic air pollution from hundreds of coal trucks. Based on the potential harmful impacts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have all opposed expansion.
Moreover, this expansion would facilitate the creation of another industrial zone that relies on dirty energy to create jobs, while jeopardizing the area’s tourism economy and public health. Additionally, communities in the West relying on this coal production for their power needs have the resources and climate to support sustainable solar energy development. By preventing the expansion of the Alton Coal Mine and urging citizens to push local governments to adopt clean energy solutions, we can protect America’s natural treasures while creating sustainable economic growth.
What steps are being taken by the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club to stop this project?
In January of 2012, Sierra Club delivered more than 210,000 signatures opposing the proposed expansion to the Utah office of the BLM. The day the signatures were delivered, the Sierra Club also organized a rally outside the BLM offices to protest the expansion. The Sierra Club will continue to look at all possible political and legal options to prevent the expansion of the Alton Coal Mine.