Utah high court turns back coal mine challenge
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Supreme Court rejected arguments Tuesday that state regulators failed to assess the full environmental impacts of a coal mine outside Bruce Canyon National Park.
The high court turned back a challenge brought by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups that asserted the state ignored a host of drawbacks from a strip mine operating a dozen miles from a corner of the national park. Coal trucks rumbled through Panguitch, a town listed on the National Historic Registry, hundreds of times a day.
Regulators satisfied state law with a plan to monitor the Coal Hollow Mine for any water pollution that gets into local creeks, justices said part of their 22-page decision.
The Sierra Club and other groups took an appeal first to the Utah Board of Oil, Gas & Mining, which upheld the operating permit issued by state regulators. The high court Tuesday affirmed the board's decision.
Opponents said they were shifting their attention to plans by Alton Coal Development LLC for a larger coal mine expanding from private to public lands.
"We will continue to fight to preserve the water we drink, the air we breathe and the night skies at Bryce Canyon National Park enjoyed by thousands of tourists each year," said Steve Bloch, a staff lawyer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
Added Josh Mogerman of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "A strip mine is not the sort of canyon tourists are flocking to see."
Alton Coal has been operating the mine on 440 acres of private land for more than a year and is seeking permission to expand on surrounding federal range lands.
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