Last week, WildEarth Guardians joined a coalition in calling on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to deny Arch Coal’s demands to expand its West Elk mine underneath western Colorado’s National Forests.
While an underground coal mine, Arch Coal has to build and operate methane venting wells above the mine, effectively turning the forests above into a gas field complete with drilling rigs, roads, and well pads.
Arch’s latest plans call for bulldozing over six miles of new roads and drilling dozens of new methane venting wells, all the Sunset Roadless Area next to Colorado’s iconic West Elk Wilderness.
In an exhaustive letter, we joined our allies at Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, High Country Conservation Advocates, and others in exposing how Arch’s plans are not only illegal, they threaten to irreversibly destroy our public lands and the climate.
On the chopping block is the Sunset Roadless Area, an undeveloped tract of National Forest lands that abuts the iconic West Elk Wilderness. Its untouched stands of aspen, beaver ponds, teeming wildlife, and high peaks make this area a hallmark of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. If Arch has its way, the Sunset Roadless Area will be turned into a fossil fuel disaster area.
This isn’t the first time Arch Coal has tried to despoil this area for profit, but our aim is to make it the last time.
Thankfully, concerns over this impending fossil fuel disaster are growing louder than ever.
Not only did thousands of Americans call for a rejection of Arch’s plans (including more than 6,300 WildEarth Guardians members–THANK YOU!), recent commentary has chastised the plans for screwing over taxpayers and destroying the climate with methane pollution. Even the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, western Colorado’s largest newspaper and normally a die-hard coal booster, expressed concerns over Arch’s plans to vent more methane, stating:
[Arch] could capture the gas or, at the very least, flare it off. If that isn’t economically feasible, then mining shouldn’t occur until technological improvements or higher coal and gas prices make methane mitigation feasible.
With the coal industry collapsing in the American West and Arch Coal still teetering on the brink after emerging from bankruptcy last year, the company’s plans to bulldoze our National Forests at the expense of our public lands and the climate seem all-the-more insane.