Massive Coal Mining Project Near Bryce Canyon NP Approved

BLM gives go-ahead to 2,000-plus acre coal mine just outside famed Utah canyonlands.


Highway 89, the two-lane scenic highway running between Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park could soon be filled with the rumbling of hundreds of double-trailer big rigs every day. Their payload? Coal.

Last Thursday the BLM gave the go-ahead to lease some 2,114 acres of federal land just outside of Bryce to Utah-centered Alton Coal Development for a massive coal mining operation. The lease would effectively double in size the Coal Hollow Mine near Alton, Utah, and perhaps triple the amount of coal production.

The BLM and Alton Coal think there could be nearly 31 million tons of coal deposits at the expansion site, the removal of which might provide as many as 240 to 480 jobs.

Environmental groups, however, have been highly critical of the proposal.

“A lot of the values of Bryce that include the night skies, air quality, visibility, the sounds and the sense of being in a special place where there are not huge numbers of coal trucks and industrialization nearby are very important,” Dave Nimkin, the National Parks Conservation Association’s southwest regional director said in a local news report.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is alarmed that lights from the mining operation would jeopardize Bryce Canyon’s famous ink-black nighttime skies, when thousands of stars can be seen.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has expressed concern about the impact any coal mine expansion would have on an important greater sage grouse population in the area of Alton.

More than 300 coal-bearing transport trucks would likely trundle down highway 89, mixing with thousands of tourist vehicles, according the National Park Service.

During the Obama administration, both the NPS and the US Fish and Wildlife Service considered the mine’s expansion, and expressed concern about potential negative impacts to visitors at Bryce Canyon. But under the current administration, the BLM was given the go-ahead to approve the lease, despite a reported 280,000 public comments critical of the planned expansion.

Before the expansion is carried out, state, local, and federal permits will still need to be attained by Alton Coal.

 

Showing 61 comments
  • Box Canyon Mark
    Reply

    Sickened by the reversal of environmental protection now happening. Sickened by Irreversible Degradation to land, air, peace and quiet….when greed conquers common sense.

    • Joan Niland
      Reply

      I completely agree. Well said.

      • Sandrs McI ally
        Reply

        What morecan this deplorable do to run this great country??
        Fracking to be allowed too

    • Bob
      Reply

      I got an idea on how to stop it. Do not buy electrical power from utilities that get their power from coal. Demand clean burning sources like solar, hydro and wind. Starve the coal mother chuckers.

      • Belinda Eastmond
        Reply

        Most of us don’t really have a choice in where we get our energy, especially those who rent. But for homeowners, I strongly urge you to seek renewable sources, and if you can’t buy energy from a renewable source, install your own. They’re getting cheaper and more efficient constantly!

  • Deeply concerned
    Reply

    NO! This is lazy, backward thinking allowing a few to try to profit while destroying priceless beauty in so many forms. We cannot recover that, once it’s been done. Wake up, America. Defend these treasures that truly make us a great country.

    • dana frederic
      Reply

      It’s terrible what Trump’s doing. We need to repeal and replace that piece of trash.

  • Suzanne Bishop
    Reply

    Who can I contact about this?

    • Andrew
      Reply

      It looks like comments have been received on the leasing decision. Next is the permitting process. NRDC is going to be tracking this. You could sign-up for their weekly emails, which would alert you to future comment periods associated with the permitting process. I’m sure there are other organizations that will be mobilizing to push back on this decision as well…

    • Justin Housman
      Reply

      It appears the public comment period is over. The BLM has effectively made their final decision. Here’s the final text from the official BLM docs: “This ROD [Record of Decision] constitutes the BLM’s final decision on holding a competitive lease sale in accordance with 43 CFR 3422.2. Prior to the lease sale, the BLM will publish a notice of the proposed sale in the Federal Register and in newspapers of general circulation, and the BLM will also post the notice in the Utah State Office. The newspaper notice will be published not less than once a week for three consecutive weeks. The ROD is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xNmE2 or at the Kanab Field Office, 669 South Highway 89A, Kanab, Utah 84741.

      There is always contacting state and local Utah reps.

    • S. B.
      Reply

      Sadly it won’t matter who you contact. The GOP has an agenda and it is not our environment, health, rights or religious freedoms….

  • Dotti H
    Reply

    This is public land. Since when do our voices not matter? I guess when big corporations want access to national treasures that out weighs what the public thinks. Coal is a dying industry.

    • G. Alan Fink
      Reply

      Sadly, you are wrong. It is a Federal Park preserved by the Government for it’s natural resources. Anyone who thinks our National Parks are anything less than a claim is fooling themselves. The ONLY reason the Federal Government preserves land is because there’s a benefit in doing so.

  • Pat Jennette
    Reply

    Yes, who can we contact???

  • Colin
    Reply

    All the while they hide Zero Point Energy , The secret hidden to allow the greed of fossil fuel continue!

  • Claudia Stewart
    Reply

    When it says ‘near’ how many miles from the state parks?

    • Justin Housman
      Reply

      Roughly 10 from Bryce Canyon.

      • Bryan Simmons
        Reply

        Shit, that’s too close.

      • Richard Hackett
        Reply

        Claudia, here’s the view from Alton, Utah, looking south towards the mine, which is off in the distance about 3 miles: https://www.google.com/maps/@37.4396958,-112.4805566,3a,75y,155.06h,71.92t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1soRt63rAtPuWSJxG6Jz5WJw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

        And you can view an aerial photo of the mine here: https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2018/07/13/there-will-be-eight-times/

        (the image of Bryce Canyon National Park used on this Adventure Journal post is a little misleading. Many casual readers could mistakenly assume that the proposed coal mine expansion would be right at that spot: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:USA_10654_Bryce_Canyon_Luca_Galuzzi_2007.jpg)

        • Steve Casimiro
          Reply

          No intention to mislead. We know the area well, and we did say point out that the traffic would be between Zion and Bryce.

          • Richard Hackett

            Thanks Steve, understood. I just think a photo of the existing mine would be a better choice.

          • Bill Keshlear

            Traffic would not be between Zion and Bryce. Trucks from Alton would travel on U.S. 89 north or south to connecting Interstates. Bryce is about 30 miles east; Zion about the same distance west.

            Compared to everyday traffic along Interstate 15, the increase along U.S. 89 would be virtually unnoticeable.

          • Steve Casimiro

            Last time I looked, 89 ran west of Bryce, east of Zion: between.

          • Bill Keshlear

            Point taken Steve, I’ll clarify, which I did but was not published by whomever monitors this site.

            The FEIS said the coal truck route would be north on 89 from Alton to 20 to the Interstate then to a railhead west of Cedar City. Close, but not exactly between Zion and Bryce.

            More to the point. There’s no indication anyone associated with this publication read the science-based FEIS.

            Read it.

            Kind of picking nits, though. Fact is, the mine would have very little impact that couldn’t be wholly mitigated. IMHO, that’s where your activism should be directed. Make sure the mitigation happens, as required by law.

            And if the mine actually happens, it would provide good-paying jobs over its lifespan. That’s good thing in a poverty-stricken part of Utah. Right?

            My guess is that you don’t give a damn.

        • C C
          Reply

          thank you Richard for posting actual information!! Funny how this article never actually stated facts about how far from the park or pictures of the actual site. It sounds like it’s already a mine and would be allowed to expand now. I wonder how many of these upset readers have ever even ventured off of hwy89 to Alton? Has the author been to the coal mine site they mention?

  • Alan
    Reply

    What a shame. “Make America Ugly and Poluted Again!”. Thanks Trump!

  • Tony Danzo
    Reply

    Just came from there. Highway 89 is dangerous enough for cars and rvs. With 300 coal trucks a day the tourist traffic will be discouraged from even traveling this route.

  • cody stout
    Reply

    ugly

    • Rose McFrog
      Reply

      Hopefully the state and local community will rise up and raise a big stink. Bryce is a holy place for nature pilgrims. Last time I was there was 18-years ago. I heard as much Japanese and German as I did English. Trump will be gone soon.

  • Jason
    Reply

    480 jobs doesn’t justify this. I’m generally against government regulations made by coastal elites trying to tell small town folks how to live their lives, but this is a mistake. It’s going too far by being so close.

    • Bill Keshlear
      Reply

      If one of those jobs were yours, Jason, would it be justified?

      • Steve
        Reply

        NO! IT WOULDN’T! People who are working in mines are somehow put on a pedestal about how their job is so incredibly important, meanwhile companies are constantly laying off people. It happens. Preserving something that we can’t bring back is MUCH MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than a future job for someone. Seriously. They can find work somewhere else.

  • Ana
    Reply

    Who in the state gives the permit? Can our elected state officials do anything about this? In what congressional district is Alton? Thank you

  • Virginia Swisher
    Reply

    I just spent a wonderful trip, a once in a lifetime trip to see the beauty of America’s greatest National Parks. Bryce Canyon and the Grand Staircase, were spectacular. Which is more important- save the beauty of this country for future generations, or destroying it for the all mighty dollar!. For Donald Trump and others- destroying America’s beauty is more important. Teddy Roosevelt and many others are turning over in their graves to see how greed is destroying the beauty of this country. Once destroyed it cannot be repaired! I have expressed my disappointment with Donald Trump’s vision of this country with my Republican Senator, but they refuse to stand up to this jerk. Shame on anyone who willingly destroy this beauty, by working for this company. Dump the Trump!!!

  • Ory
    Reply

    Where is the coal going? Who is using/purchasing it? What are the alternatives and lifestyle changes we can support and put our time towards to reduce the need for the demand? Will griping about this on social media and trying to point fingers for political camps make a difference? We ( yes, you and I) demand fossil fuels to power our ability to use the internet and pretty much everything we do, down to the lycra we wear in our instagram shots. We are all contributors to, and beneficiaries of this.

    • Bill Keshlear
      Reply

      There’s no indication the coal is going anywhere. Of the six coal-fired plants in Utah, three are shutting down. The big Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz, likely will shut down next year. The industry is in free fall.

      • Mark
        Reply

        Exported would be my guess.

  • Stacy Parker
    Reply

    My family and I were just there for the first time in April of this year. Being from Florida, we were blown away at the Majestic Beauty of Utah’s national parks. Now President Dick is going to ruin that in the name of coal. Can’t somebody reach out to Mitt Romney? He seems to be a reasonable Republican. Or, is that an oxymoron?

    • Jason
      Reply

      Romney’s not our (Utah’s) senator….yet. It seems he’s going to be one that stands up to Trump.
      One thing Trump is doing that is good, with the BLM HQ moving to the west, it may be easier for us to be heard with these types of issues.

      • RoseMcFrog
        Reply

        Hahaha! I’m sure the thought never occurred to him. Best wishes to you. I’ve been to Bryce several times with family. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.

      • Aaron
        Reply

        Romney supports this crap too. Hell he sucked up to Trump for the SOS gig and supported the reversal of Bears Ear. Romney will be a continuation of Orrin Hatch. Utah needs the actual Utahn in Jenny Wilson as their next U.S. Senator while Massachusetts Mitt needs to go away already.

  • Clint Wilder
    Reply

    Probably need to start organizing

  • Tami Clark
    Reply

    This is so exaggerated it is disgusting. No one visiting Bryce Canyon will even know it’s there. So damn tired of the enviros and elitists blowing everything out of porpotion. We need industry as well as tourism and recreation. I’m sick of people coming here from every place in the world telling Utah what they can and can’t have…just because you ruined yours and we’ve always taken care of ours and will continue to even with multiple use. They aren’t coal mining in the middle of Bryce Canyon National Park!!!

    • Steve Casimiro
      Reply

      Tami—if you’ll take a closer look, you’ll note that the story does not say in, it says near, and it very specifically discusses the impact of mining on light pollution, which would be visible in Bryce.

      • Bill Keshlear
        Reply

        “Night pollution?” Really. You’d deny residents of Kane County a shot at good-paying jobs so tourists can get a better glimpse at Venus?

        Night pollution is easily mitigated.

        • Steve Casimiro
          Reply

          Sorry bout that—typo. Was supposed to read “light” pollution. And I’m not making an argument one way or another—I’m simply pointing out one of the reasons some people are opposed to it.

      • Bill Keshlear
        Reply

        You’re incorrect, Steve.

        Here are parts in the Final Environmental Impact Statement relevant to night pollution: “The study conducted by Dark Sky Partners concludes that the predicted skyglow visible from Yovimpa Point in Bryce Canyon National Park would be less than that produced by several small towns in the general area. … Although the impacts of the Proposed Action would not reach a level of significance, there is a high value placed on night sky resources at Bryce Canyon. The mitigations listed in Section 4.2.5 are recommended to further reduce impacts to night sky conditions.” (Chapter 4, Environmental Impacts; 4.2, Aesthetic Resources; 4.2.4.2.4. Viewshed Analysis and Nighttime Lighting)

        From the sources it chose in this report, Adventure Journal seems to suggest that tourists’ ability to spot Venus or some other planet or star should outweigh creation of good-paying jobs in a rural economy dependent on poverty-wage tourism (Kane 43 percent “leisure and hospitality; Garfield, 54 percent)?

        Wouldn’t a more reasonable position be support for mitigation, which has been exhaustively pursued by BLM? Both the City and County of San Diego have adopted laws and regulations to preserve night skies.

        Failing that, why not at least some sort of acknowledgement that it was studied.

    • Eric Ingvardsen
      Reply

      C’mon Tami – try some imagination here or maybe you’re not an actual Utah resident? We happen to live here in Utah right at the Arizona state line by Lake Powell. It takes ZERO imagination to figure out the “industry” you’re speaking of is burning coal for energy. We see the scum line in view over the lake from the NGS. I’ll remind you and anyone else reading, the National Parks in these parts and bordering states, comprise the most concentrated numbers in the nation! Industrial need for a dying energy source….think of generations to come even when if it’s not your own and stop being so limited and figure it out that attracting tourism is one of Utah’s best qualities. IT’S A WORLD DESTINATION and not a personal challenge that makes you too tired to think. Blindness and complacent “insight” be damned.

  • NoelArmourson
    Reply

    Is this in the Escalante Grand Staircase area?

    • Steve Casimiro
      Reply

      No, it’s an hour or two directly west of there.

  • Eddie Wolf
    Reply

    I understand Trump’s wanting to create jobs for folks and his sensitivity to overprotective restrictions.

    But this is just plain ignorant. I like some of what Trump is doing and he was definitely better than the status quo’s candidate, but Trump’s EPA is awful.

    Catering to the warmongers, and his EPA are Trump’s weakest areas.

  • Linda S LLoyd
    Reply

    it is the politicians of Utah that started this mess. They lobbied the EPA under Trump to allow the changes in this part of Utah including oil and gas leases and coal mines.. Blame Zink and the politicians of Utah.

  • Grace Nichols
    Reply

    Yes, we have to sue the bastards, Yes we need an injunction; yes we need to occupy that land while the injunction comes through; yes, this is a line in the sand regarding fragile ecosystems, land conservation, protection of the sacred and ending fossil fuel emissions which endager us all.

    Germany occupied their largest coal mine and ended coal production.
    Austrialian people in indigenous canoes blockaded coal shipments.
    We, the lovers of the American wilderness and Turtle Island, must rise up against coal as we would against any intruder threatening to kill our mother first and the whole family with her. That is our situation.

    • Billy Greenlee
      Reply

      Make sure while you’re rising up against coal that you have the electrical power lines to your home removed. You’re talking out of your liberal arse with no real idea of what you’re talking about. The adventure journal has intentionally misled people with this article. Which is disappointing.

      • Eric Ingvardsen
        Reply

        Sorry Billy – would it really be that much of a stretch for you to figure out there’s no “clean burning coal” on the planet?

  • Larva
    Reply

    Thanks for the article and head up on this horrible news. This is trivial, compared to the blow that this decision is going to give us, but you got a typo in paragraph 10, in case you want to fix it.

  • Dulane Crist
    Reply

    I am so disgusted by the betrayal and corporate control of our government agencies. The same agencies that were made to protect our natural resources instead of selling to the highest bidder. I do hope a higher power will count coup on these soulless bastards for perpetuity.

  • Kim Benner
    Reply

    I have read every comment, I agree this should not be done. I also would add Native American Religious beliefs to the list of “ why nots”.

  • Zeno Parry
    Reply

    I can not do much this year so elect me to the house Oct. 23 2018. – Nov 6, 2018
    Zeno Parry for UT House of Representatives District 72

  • Sam Rushforth
    Reply

    There is one critical thing we CAN do. Vote against Love and Romney. They perpetrate this outdated thinking that helps the very few at the expense of everyone else.

  • Stephen Peterson
    Reply

    As long as the population keeps increasing, demand for resources will continue. The ultimate solution is to stop or reduce population growth. But, worry not, mother nature has ways of population control, none of which are pleasant: famine, plague, and warfare. As for writing our Utah congressmen, I have and they are the ones pushing the mine, so no joy there.

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