Groups ask court to halt Alton strip mining
Environmentalists seeking to block a strip mine near Bryce Canyon National Park are appealing to the Utah Supreme Court.
The Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council and National Parks Conservation Association filed their appeal Wednesday, seeking a stay on mining and a review of state-issued permits for Alton Coal Co.'s Coal Hollow Project in Kane County, about 10 miles southwest of the park.
"Our biggest concern is the proximity to Bryce," said Karen Hevel-Mingo, a Utah-based representative for the National Parks Conservation Association.
Opponents, including Panguitch residents who testified against a state air-quality permit, fear that crushing and trucking the coal will create health hazards and dim the park's brilliant night sky.
"I'm not sure that we would be having this conversation," Hevel-Mingo said, "if it weren't 10 miles from one of Utah's national parks."
"This is much bigger than one mine," Panguitch small-business owner Bobbi Bryant said in a news released issued by the environmental groups. "It is a decision for Utah to allow coal-strip mining to take place near our beautiful national parks and monuments, and we would like the Utah Supreme Court to consider and agree that there are better choices for our environment and economy."
Other Panguitch residents and city and county officials have supported the project as a jobs generator. It's planned as a 244-acre mine to be developed in 30 successive pits producing up to 2 million tons of coal a year.
Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining spokesman Jim Springer said state law doesn't account for distant effects to national parks or other significant landmarks, such as Panguitch's historic downtown.
"That's not exactly next door," Springer said.
The mining company did not respond to a call seeking comment. It has begun preparing the ground for digging.
The state mining board approved the permit early last month. It then considered appeals and issued a final order Nov. 22.