Expanding Arch Coal’s West Elk mine threatens climate, forest

Guardians and allies sued the Trump administration late on July 2 to block approval of a mine expansion that would invade the wildlands of western Colorado’s Gunnison National Forest. The expansion of the West Elk Mine would allow Arch Coal to mine nearly 18 million tons of new coal over three years in the Sunset Roadless Area, an undeveloped tract of forest.

Located in the West Elk Mountains just east of Paonia, Colo., the West Elk Mine is one of the largest coal mines in Colorado. It covers more than 20 square miles of the Gunnison National Forest next to the West Elk Wilderness Area. It’s also the single largest industrial source of methane pollution in the state, in 2017 releasing more than 440,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide—equal to annual emissions from more than 98,000 cars.

The lawsuit and preliminary injunction argue the Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take action to limit methane, as well as failing to fully account for the climate implications of authorizing more coal mining and address how more mining would affect the region’s water.

Read the press release.

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