News

Confronting Coal Exports, Defending Public Lands

oakland coal

Coal export facility in the Bay Area of California.

While President Trump and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, are pulling out all the stops to hand over our public lands to the fossil fuel industry, WildEarth Guardians is stepping up to confront these giveaways, defend the American West, and safeguard our climate.

This month, we moved to thwart the Greens Hollow coal lease in central Utah.

In March, Interior Secretary Zinke authorized the sale of the lease to Bowie Resources (you may not have heard of Bowie, but at one point, they were poised to become one of the largest coal companies in the American West). More than 6,000 acres in size (that’s nearly 10 square miles), the Greens Hollow lease would add 56 million tons of reserves to Bowie’s SUFCO mine, extending its life by nine years.

sufco

The SUFCO mine is a little more than 150 miles south of Salt Lake City, Utah, located in the southern Wasatch Plateau near the small town of Castle Dale and U.S. Interstate 70 (click here for an interactive web map). The Greens Hollow lease would expand the mine to the northwest, under the Manti-La Sal and Fishlake National Forests.

greens hollow lease

The approval of the coal lease comes as Bowie Resources has been eyeing shipping coal from the SUFCO mine to Oakland, California, then sending it to overseas customers in Asia. While Bowie’s plans ignited a major pushback in Oakland, it hasn’t stopped the company from pursuing the Greens Hollow lease and pressing ahead with ambitions to export.

Whether burned abroad or here in the U.S., the Greens Hollow coal lease is a disaster. All told, if the coal from the lease is mined and burned, as Bowie Resources intends, more than 120 million metric tons of carbon stands to be unleashed, equal to the annual emissions of 30 coal-fired power plants.

Not only that, but the new lease would undermine roadless lands and key wildlife habitat on the the Manti-La Sal and Fishlake National Forests. Although SUFCO is underground, Bowie’s plans call for building a transmission line, new roads, a ventilation shaft, drilling new wells, and effectively turning the lands above the mine into an industrial zone.

sufco coal mine

SUFCO coal mine

It’s shameful because this area is spectacular. They include lands that qualify for wilderness protection, like the Muddy Creek-Nelson Mountain and the White Mountain Roadless Areas. And they include prime habitat for wildlife like the imperiled sage grouse.

A good friend of ours (and WildEarth Guardians member), Tim Peterson with the Grand Canyon Trust, has actually spent a ton of time out here and documented the area extensively. Check out some of the pictures he took last fall above the Greens Hollow coal lease.

The Greens Hollow coal lease was (sadly) offered for sale under the Obama Administration, but it wasn’t until Secretary Zinke came on board that the Interior Department decided to go ahead and complete the transaction.

In our latest filing before the Interior Board of Land Appeals, WildEarth Guardians, together with our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity, the Grand Canyon Trust, and the Sierra Club, took dead aim at the approval of the Greens Hollow lease. In a brief filed with the Board, we challenged the the legality of the Interior Department’s decision, citing the agency’s failure to protect sage grouse, the climate, and endangered fish in the region.

While Trump and Zinke are moving to sacrifice our public lands for fossil fuels, we’re not backing down from challenging the Greens Hollow coal lease, thwarting Bowie’s coal export plans, and defending our climate and public lands.