Environmental groups sue over potential strip mine expansion near Bryce Canyon

A coalition of environmental groups is suing the Trump administration to halt a coal mining lease near Bryce Canyon National Park.

Alton Coal Development Co. is seeking to increase its coal output eightfold under its recent federal lease of 3,581 acres about 10 miles west of Bryce Canyon. This lease contains up 40 million tons of recoverable coal adjacent to Alton’s existing Coal Hollow strip mine.

But the lawsuit, filed Tuesday by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and several other groups, asserts federal officials violated environmental regulations by approving the lease without considering the impact of the eventual burning of the coal itself.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management "failed to adequately analyze and disclose the indirect and cumulative environmental impacts of mercury and other pollutants emitted from burning coal that will be mined," or the resultant greenhouse gas emissions, the lawsuits states.

The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Grand Canyon Trust and WildEarth Guardians also are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The complaint states the mining and the subsequent burning of the coal will force recreationists to breathe polluted air, impair visibility at scenic spots, and increase industrial traffic on the roads near Bryce.

Expanded coal mining there, the lawsuit states, “irreparably harms plaintiffs’ health, recreational, economic, professional and aesthetic interests ... because it will destroy wildlife habitat and vegetation, increase particulate and other air emissions, increase truck traffic, and cause other impacts that will degrade enjoyment of the affected areas."

The U.S. Department of the Interior declined to comment on the lawsuit, The Associated Press reported.