Earthjustice – 2017-06-27 23:24:17
ACTION ALERT: Stop Coal Mining Assault on
Pristine Roadless Forest
A mining company plans to bulldoze miles of the
Sunset Roadless area in western Colorado
IN ONE OF THE FIRST OPPORTUNITIES to push back against the devastating on-the-ground impacts the Trump administration’s fossil fuel agenda will have on our public lands, the Forest Service is asking to hear from the public — until July 24 — on a plan to bulldoze pristine roadless forests in Colorado for coal mining.
The Forest Service is attempting to give Arch Coal, the nation’s second largest coal company, the right to expand its mining into 1,700 acres of the Sunset Roadless Area — lands that belong to all Americans.
A rolling landscape of aspen and spruce-fir forests and beaver ponds, the Sunset Roadless Area is within Gunnison National Forest, 40 miles from Aspen, Colorado. The lush, wild forest is public land — prime habitat for goshawk, black bear, elk, cutthroat trout and the imperiled lynx, and enjoyed by hikers and recreationists visiting from near and far. Some of the spruce may be centuries old.
ARCH COAL HAS REPEATEDLY SOUGHT TO MINE THIS AREA. Legal and advocacy work over the past decade by Earthjustice, our partners and clients, and our supporters, has saved the Sunset Roadless Area from each of Arch Coal’s attempts. (See timeline: The Long, Winding Road to Save The Sunset Roadless Area)
But now, with a fossil fuel-friendly administration, the Sunset Roadless Area — and the climate-polluting coal and methane gas under it — is again at risk.
President Trump has been clear since day one that he’s turning over the nation’s public lands and environment to King Coal and other polluters. In his first months in office, he’s made it easier for coal mines to dump tons of rock into rivers and streams, ended a study meant to fix our broken coal leasing system, proposed slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and moved to eliminate US limits on carbon pollution.
Now his anti-environment administration is at it again, with a plan to approve a coal lease expansion and exploratory drilling within roadless national forest in western Colorado.
The US Forest Service is conducting an environmental impact statement on the expansion of Arch Coal’s West Elk mine into the Sunset Roadless Area, and is asking for your input. This is one of the first opportunities to push back against the devastating on-the-ground impacts that Trump’s dirty energy agenda will have on our pristine public lands.
The coal lease would give Arch Coal the right to mine within 1,700 acres of the Sunset Roadless Area, a rolling landscape of aspen and spruce-fir forests and beaver ponds on national forest land directly adjacent to the scenic West Elk Wilderness, 40 miles from Aspen, Colorado. This roadless area provides winter habitat for big-game herds, denning areas for the rare Canada lynx and watersheds that support populations of imperiled Colorado River cutthroat trout.
Year after year since 2012, Earthjustice has fought in and out of court — and supporters like you have spoken up — to protect this pristine roadless forest.
As Colorado native Barb T. shared in an earlier open comment period:
“As a lifelong resident of Colorado, I urge you to defend our remaining wildlands from coal mines and the roads that will be constructed. Our environment in Colorado is a treasure that is enjoyed by millions of Americans each year when they visit our state. Our scenery, wildlife, and open spaces are much more valuable than the coal below.”
This proposed plan is a triple threat that would scrape wild forest, spew hundreds of millions of cubic feet of methane into the air each year and worsen climate change. Arch Coal plans to bulldoze over 6 miles of road and scrape up to 48 drilling pads to build methane vents and give the company access to over 17 million tons of coal. A remote, wild landscape will be destroyed for the benefit of a single corporation.
And worse, the Forest Service is refusing to require Arch Coal to control methane pollution — a greenhouse gas on steroids — caused by the mine expansion. This has made the West Elk mine the largest single source of industrial methane pollution in the state of Colorado over the last few years.
If we are to have a chance to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, it’s time to stop the federal government from putting cheap coal on the market and spewing massive amounts of methane.
Say no to Trump’s dirty energy agenda. Your actions in the past have helped stall Arch Coal’s plans to expand; this is the next step in our fight. Tell the Forest Service to stop the West Elk mine lease expansion!
Your personalized message will be added along with the following letter:
RE: Federal Coal Lease Modifications
COC-1362 & COC-67232 #32459
Dear Forest Service:
I write to urge the US Forest Service to reject Arch Coal’s plan to bulldoze roads, drill exploratory wells and lease coal within the beautiful Sunset Roadless Area.
The Sunset Roadless Area is home to beaver and black bear, elk and goshawk, and provides habitat for the imperiled lynx. Arch Coal’s proposal to scrape more than 6 miles of road and nearly 50 drilling pads will degrade this vibrant forest. Valued recreation and hunting areas will be scarred for years to benefit a single corporation.
The lease will also allow Arch to mine over 17 million tons of coal, pouring gasoline on the fire of climate change. Worse, your agency is refusing require Arch to control methane pollution caused by the mine expansion. Over the last few years the West Elk mine has become the largest single source of industrial methane pollution in the state.
Scientific studies show that if we want to avoid the worst potential damage from climate change, we must keep much of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. The Forest Service should draw the line here.
ARCH COAL’S EXISTING INDUSTRIAL OPERATIONS scar the landscape west of the Sunset Roadless Area. The company already has a ten-year supply of coal at its current rate of mining, even without the expansion of the coal mine lease. Trump’s Forest Service proposes to give Arch Coal additional access to more than 17 million tons of coal.
Left in place, the coal and methane under the roadless area will not contribute to the planetary crisis of climate change. But leaving them alone is not what Arch Coal has in mind.
THE UNDERGROUND MINING WILL VENT HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF CUBIC FEET OF METHANE — a potent climate pollutant — into the atmosphere from a tight web of industrial facilities scraped and bulldozed through the forest.
Methane traps more than 80 times more heat than CO2 in the short-term. According data from the US Environmental Protection Agency, from 2013 to 2015, the mine Arch Coal seeks to expand was the largest single industrial source of methane pollution in Colorado. Arch Coal will not be required to capture, burn, or reduce any of the methane pollution.
TODAY, COLORADO’S SOLAR AND WIND INDUSTRIES employ more than 14,000 people, about twelve times as many as work in the state’s mines. Long-term, the future of jobs and energy in the state is becoming clearer — and cleaner. Deepening our reliance on dirty fuels will only lead to higher costs for us all.
For a short time, the Forest Service is asking for your comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for Arch Coal’s mine lease expansion into the Sunset Roadless Area:
Please keep the Sunset Roadless Area as it is.
Reject Arch Coal’s drilling, bulldozing and lease proposal.
The Three Things To Know About Roadless:
1. WHAT IS ‘ROADLESS’?
Specially designated public land protected from damaging new roads and clear-cuts of intact forests under the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Defined as “large, relatively undisturbed landscapes,” roadless areas cover about a third of our national forests.
Some economic development, including tourism projects, is permitted.
Roadless areas belong to the public and are to be enjoyed by everyone. They provide vital habitat for 1,500 wildlife species — and are protecting the drinking water supplies for 60 million people.
2. IF ROADLESS AREAS ARE PROTECTED,
WHY IS THE SUNSET ROADLESS AREA AT RISK?
A “special” Colorado Roadless Rule supersedes the national Roadless Rule.
This state rule weakened protection for roadless lands in the state — and included a 20,000-acre loophole for extractive industries, allowing mines to bulldoze roadless areas north and east of Paonia.
In 2014, the loophole was eliminated through litigation brought by Earthjustice on behalf of local and national conservation groups.
Two years later, the Forest Service re-opened the loophole — even though it admitted coal mined from these roadless lands will displace nearly 10,000 gigawatt hours of clean, renewable power.
3. WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF ROADS IN ROADLESS AREAS?
There is a large and growing body of evidence about the harmful impacts of road construction and road use — much of it written by the Forest Service itself.
Even so-called “temporary” road construction can damage streams, alter hydrology, spread invasive weeds, lead to road-kill and fragment habitat. Habitat that has been cut down and bulldozed may never be restored to its original state.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEK