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Climate Threatened by More Coal Mining in Utah

September 14, 2015
Jeremy Nichols (303) 437-7663
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
Denver—WildEarth Guardians filed suit in federal court late last Friday to overturn the U.S. Interior Department’s sale of more than 42 million tons of coal in Utah that stands to be shipped overseas, undermining global climate progress and setting back U.S. carbon reduction efforts.

“For our climate, it’s time for our coal to be kept in the ground,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “The last thing the Department of the Interior should be doing is giving the green light for companies to mine our publicly owned coal and ship it overseas to be burned.”

The Flat Canyon coal lease was sold last June for 40¢ a ton to Bowie Resources. The lease would expand the company’s Skyline mine, the second largest producer in Utah. Bowie’s purchase of the publicly owned coal comes as the company is securing additional capacity to export coal overseas through the Bay Area of California.

Most recently, it was revealed that four Utah Counties—Sanpete, Emery, Carbon, and Sevier—secured a loan from the State of Utah for more than $50 million to invest in a new port facility in Oakland. Reports indicate the Counties secured the loan to bolster Bowie Resources’ plans to export coal from its Utah mines.

The sale of the Flat Canyon coal lease comes even as Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, has raised questions over whether the mining of publicly owned coal is consistent with U.S. climate objectives. More than 40% of all coal produced in the nation is publicly owned. When burned, this coal releases more than 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The sale of the Flat Canyon coal lease stands to unleash more than 78 million tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the amount released annually by more than 16.4 million passenger vehicles.

The Interior Department originally approved the sale of the Flat Canyon coal lease in 2002. At the time, the agency claimed that the climate implications of mining coal were “beyond the scope” of the analysis. It wasn’t until June of this year that the agency decided to move forward with selling the coal.

“The climate implications of more coal mining and burning may have been ignored in 2002, but in 2015, it’s unacceptable,” said Nichols. “It’s time for Interior to pull its head out of the sand and stop selling more coal that only promises to dig us deeper into a climate debt.”

The Flat Canyon coal lease comes as the Interior Department is weighing other leasing proposals in Utah, including most recently the Alton coal lease in southern Utah.

The Flat Canyon lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, where WildEarth Guardians’ Denver office is located.