For Immediate Release: December 6, 2011
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy
Program Director, (303) 573-4898 x 1303
Shannon Anderson, Powder
River Basin Resource Council, (307)
L.J. Turner, Member, Powder
River Basin Resource Council, (307)
Rachele Huennekens, Sierra Club Grassroots Media
Coordinator, (415) 977-5761
Michael Soules, University of Colorado
Natural Resources Clinic Director, (303) 492-5897
Conservation Groups Challenge U.S. Forest Service’s Plan for Dirty Coal Strip Mining in National
CO — WildEarth Guardians, the Sierra
Club and the Powder River Basin Resource Council issued a legal challenge today
to the U.S. Forest Service’s misguided decision to open nearly 2,000 acres of
the Thunder Basin National Grassland to harmful coal strip mining. The conservation
groups charged that the U.S. Forest Service’s consent to the South Porcupine
coal lease fails to protect air quality, groundwater aquifers, and wildlife;
ensure reclamation of strip-mined lands; and consider alternative options that
would lessen climate disruption.
Today’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of the conservation
groups by the University of Colorado
Law School Natural Resources Clinic in the U.S.
District Court for the District of Colorado.
The South Porcupine Coal lease would expand Peabody Energy
Corporation’s North Antelope Rochelle strip mine -- one of the largest coal
mines in the world – in the Thunder Basin National Grassland in Wyoming.
The U.S. Forest Service’s decision to consent to the lease green-lights the
mining of more than 400 million tons of coal, which could worsen the global
climate crisis by releasing more than 500 million metric tons of carbon pollution,
if burned to produce electricity
“The Forest Service sadly seems to be leading the charge to
destroy the Earth’s climate,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate
and Energy Program Director. “Yet given
the American public’s overwhelming support for clean energy, the agency needs
to rethink this dangerously political decision.
Dirty energy has no place on our public lands.”
Air quality surrounding the Powder
River Basin strip mines continues
to decrease, with frequent toxic emissions related to coal blasting and
constant dust from mining activities. The groups are challenging the Forest
Service’s consent of the coal lease because it does not ensure compliance with
air quality standards.
“As a neighbor to the North Antelope coal mine, I have seen
dramatic impacts to my quality of life,” said L.J. Turner, a cattle and sheep
rancher and member of Powder River Basin Resource Council. “It seems like the
Forest Service is sacrificing our air and water quality just to pander to the
The lawsuit comes as the coal industry is seeking to
dramatically expand mining in the Powder
River Basin region of northeastern Wyoming,
the largest coal-producing region in the United
In the last two years, 15 new coal leases have been proposed for the Powder
River Basin, yet domestic demand
for coal is shrinking. Mining companies, including Peabody,
are looking to export more coal to Asia, and it is
likely that coal from the Grasslands will be a part of those export plans.
Energy and other Big Coal companies are on notice: we will not tolerate dirty
coal mines destroying our public lands and hurting our health,” said Steve
Thomas, Sierra Club Western Regional Organizing Director. “The Forest
Service and other federal agencies must protect our water, air, and wild lands.”
Photos of the
North Antelope Rochelle Mine and photos of air quality problems in the Powder
River Basin are
available for stories upon request.