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Are feds getting short-changed on Wyoming coal leases?

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Loading coal in the Powder River Basin. Photo by USGS.

IG report shows flaws in leasing program

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The fossil fuel industry — specifically Big Coal — is shafting Americans every which way, from spewing heat-trapping greenhouses gases into the atmosphere to underpaying the federal government for the coal it takes from the Powder River Basin.

A report by the Department of Interior’s Inspector General found that U.S. taxpayers are likely losing tens of millions of dollars on bids from mining corporations as a result of a federal leasing program that undervalues the price of coal.

Even though the agency has a legal obligation to the American public to secure a fair market value for coal, it is not meeting its responsibilities to taxpayers, according to grassroots watchdog groups. Continue reading

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Colorado: Court showdown likely over West Elk Coal mine

View from the Sunset Trail. Photo courtesy WildEarth Guardians.

View from the Sunset Trail. Photo courtesy WildEarth Guardians.

Forest Service, BLM to be challenged over approvals for new roads, methane venting

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Conservation groups say they will likely go to court to try and block a coalmine expansion in a roadless area 10 miles west of Paonia. The coal lease expansion paves the way for corporate giant Arch Coal to bulldoze 6.5 miles of road and 48 natural gas drilling pads through 1,700 acres — about three-square miles — of roadless forest for the company’s West Elk mine.

“The beautiful forests, ponds, and meadows of the Sunset Roadless Area are a natural wonderland that deserves protection, not destruction at the hands of one of the nation’s dirtiest industries,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney with Earthjustice representing conservation groups who have challenged the mine expansion.

The Bureau of Land Management approved the coal lease expansion last week, a decision that followed an August 2012 Forest Service decision to “consent” to the destructive expansion on the Gunnison National Forest. The roadless area at stake includes forest of aspen and giant spruce, beaver lodges and meadows in an area used by hikers and hunters.  The area provides habitat for lynx, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, as well as elk, black bear, and hawks. Continue reading

Colorado: Forest Service challenged anew over approval of a coal mine expansion in roadless area

Beaver ponds in the Sunset roadless area. Photo courtesy Earthjustice.

Showdown over West Elk coal mine could be a test for Colorado roadless rule

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A long-running battle over a coal mine expansion in a national forest roadless area continues, as conservation groups this week challenged U.S. Forest Service approval of a coal mine expansion 10 miles east of Paonia.

According to Earthjustice, the mine project could ultimately result in construction more than six miles of roads, along with 48 natural gas drilling pads within the Sunset roadless area, one of the areas exempted from a road-building ban under a newly adopted roadless rule for national forest lands in Colorado.

“The Sunset Roadless Area is real gem, a beautiful forest of aspen and giant spruce, beaver lodges and meadows, a home for elk and bear,” said Ted Zukoski, staff attorney for Earthjustice, the public interest environmental law firm representing the groups.  “This is a place the Forest Service should be protecting for all Coloradoans, not sacrificing to appease special interests.” Continue reading

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