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Blocking expansion of Utah strip mine is a Sierra Club priority

Published October 16, 2011 10:16 pm

Ecology • President of club attends 2 days of meetings at Brighton.
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Brighton • Preventing the expansion of Utah's first strip coal mine is one of the Sierra Club's top regional priorities, the national president of the environmental group said Sunday.

Preventing new uranium mining is another goal, said Robin Mann, president of the San Francisco-based group, after wrapping up two days of meetings in Utah.

"We have a big focus on transitioning to a clean energy economy, for a number of reasons, but for [reasons]that relate very much to this area," said Mann.

During meetings at the Brighton Resort in the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, Sierra Club officials — including representatives from Utah, Arizona and New Mexico — focused on issues related to the Colorado Plateau.

One issue was the Alton Coal Development's Coal Hollow Project, located in Kane County near Panguitch and about 10 miles southwest of Bryce Canyon National Park.

The Sierra Club is opposing a proposal by the mine, that is now on state and private land, to expand onto federal land administrated by the Bureau of Land Management, said Tim Wagner, a regional representative for the group. The group also is contesting state permits in court.

The Sierra Club is concerned that the mine is located in a major migration corridor used by a mule deer herd and that it could be seen from Bryce Canyon, particularly at night, said Wagner.

"It'll have a direct impact on Bryce Canyon National Park in terms of air quality, in terms of nighttime skies," he said. "Bryce Canyon is one of the very famous parks for having some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states."

Alton Coal Development of Cedar City did not return a voice mail message left Sunday.

Mann said the opposition to the coal mine also is part of the group's effort to promote development of clean energy to replace coal, which is a major contributor or air pollution. That includes pricing coal to take into account its environmental effects, she said.

"We see the nation moving, not as fast as we'd like, but in a deliberate way to even the playing field for clean energy and to properly recognize the tremendous cost in human health," she said.

The club also wants to limit the opening of uranium mines, particularly one near the rim of the Grand Canyon. Mann cited their impact on water quality and on the population of American Indians who live near such mines.

tharvey@sltrib.com