Dick Cumiskey, SCCAW President, offers his firsthand perspective on the proposed Alton Coal Mine Expansion and the reality of a 500% increase in semi-truck traffic in historic nearby towns, affect on local national park tourism, habitat, affect on views and more. Check it out here: Alton Strip Coal Mine Expansion Application
Threatens Utah’s Clean Air, Water, Public Health and Tourism.
A proposal to dramatically increase strip coal mining operations in central Utah near Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks threatens tourism, local community health and water resources.
The Bureau of Land Management is considering a proposal to expand a strip mine coal operation to more than 3,500 acres, an increase of nearly 500 percent over the existing mine. The new operation would run for 25 years, 24 hours a day, six days a week, drive 300 tractor trailer trucks through the town of Panguitch each day, and remove 50 million tons of coal.
Residents of Panguitch, Utah and near by towns have been experiencing about 20 open semi truck loads driving down main street every day for the last year. The proposed expansion would increase this daily number to 300.
Short Sighted Energy Policy and Revenue Streams
Utah Governor fast tracked existing operation:
The Coal Hollow Mine was originally expected to operate for three years. Its approval was granted last year despite opposition by the National Park Service and many local residents, and Utah Governor Gary Herbert was criticized for pushing regulators to fast-track the deal after accepting $10,000 from Alton Coal Development for his re-election fund.
Within weeks of commencing operations, Alton Coal Development was cited for two environmental violations by the state Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.
A $10,000 dolar donation and a promise of short sighted stare revenue is apparently all it takes for a project like this.
Local Jobs and Nearby Towns Benefiting?
A nearby town, Alton, Utah near the Coal Hollow Mine has experienced a massive increase in semi truck traffic and gained zero jobs for local residents. The jobs provided by the mine have gone to specialists and out of state and area drivers.
Area residents opposed to the mine say promises of a road being built to avoid Alton and other towns have not been built. Instead mined coal is hauled in open semi truck loads right through town.Coal dust is now becoming a significant problem for residents and businesses along trucking routes.
Lured with the potential for new subdivisions for mine workers have not manifested rather, most employees of the mine are not buying homes in the area. Increases in crimes have also been reported.
Far from benefiting local residents, land owners and business, the existing mine operations and future expansion threatens to disrupt a tranquil way of life area residents have enjoyed and expected.
Environmental impact projections fall short
The release earlier this month of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement laying out the proposal quickly drew reaction from environmental and conservation groups still stinging from the mine’s original approval.
“This study is woefully inadequate in analyzing the impacts on the region’s natural wonders, its wildlife, and clean air and water,” said Tim Wagner, representative of the Sierra Club. “Forsaking all of these diverse benefits for a few years’ worth of dirty coal and the profits for one company is not sound public lands management.”
Utah National Park Tourism Threatened
Utah is prized for it’s unparalleled beauty and National Park treasures. This is an industry projected to grow indefinity over teh next 30 years.
Tourism is a $6.2 billion industry in Utah, and the state’s five national parks are a prime driver. From 2009 through 2010, visits to the national parks rose to more than 6 million, and another 4.8 million visited the seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, and one national historic site, according to the Utah Office of Tourism. By comparison, coal mining, comparatively, had a direct financial impact of $196 million in 2007, the year with the most detailed information, according to the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.
According to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
- The proposed expansion would lead to “increased ambient noise levels, short-term modifications to visual resources, and perceptible increase in nighttime skyglow.”
- More air pollutants — particulate matter (PM)10, PM25, nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide (CO), and sulfur dioxide [SO2]) and hazardous air pollutants (HAP) (benzene, toluene, xylenes, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein — also would be produced. But the BLM states they would be within National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
- As for cultural resource impacts, the DEIS states that, “(A)rchaeological sites eligible for the National Register would be adversely impacted from the implementation of either action alternative due to surface-disturbing activities associated with mining operations.
- “Underground mining may impact unidentified archaeological sites. Native American traditionally cultural properties would be subject to adverse effects for the life of the mine under either action alternative,” the narrative continues. “The Panguitch Historic District and Utah Heritage Highway 89/Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area (US-89) would be subject to adverse effects for the life of the mine under either action alternative.”
- Fossil resources also would be lost, according to the document: “It is anticipated that a large number of significant fossils would be destroyed or removed from context…”
“There would be an adverse impact to recreation, and adverse impacts to sense of community, social well-being, and tourism-related businesses,” the DEIS says. “There would be impacts to population, housing, public health, safety, and environmental justice populations.”
Children and generations to come will be impacted.
“The Alton mine creates horrendous truck traffic on U.S. Highway 89 already,” said a Salt Lake Tribune editorial opposing the proposal, “and such an expansion would ruin the quality of life for residents and discourage the wealth of tourists.” The Trib called a larger mine “unconscionable.”
How can you help?
We need your help and time is limited:
The BLM is accepting comments on the proposal through January 6, 2012. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to UT_Kanab_Altoncoal@blm.govletter to the address below, or by letter to Attention: Keith Rigtrup, Bureau of Land Management, Kanab Field Office, 319 North 100 East, Kanab, UT 84741. There also are five public meetings in Utah over the next two weeks, including one in Salt Lake City on December 7.
The BLM is required to review all comments. Please let your voice be heard and tell them we want sustainable long term grown that benefits local residents, their way of life and our state’s vital National Park Tourism industry.
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