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Pollution Giant: New Colorado Coal Mine

It will be a brand new underground coal mine. It will be the biggest underground coal mine in Colorado. It will spew nearly 4 million tons of methane -- a powerful greenhouse gas -- into the atmosphere every year. By doing so, it will boost Colorado's total greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 3 percent over 2005 levels.

And that doesn't include the roughly 20 million tons of CO2 produced by burning the 8 million tons of coal that will come out of the mine each year for up to 30 years, thus feeding our nation's addiction to dirty fuel. 

Welcome to an idea whose time should not come: the Red Cliff Mine. The mine would dig coal out from under as much as 20,000 acres of federal land 25 miles northwest of Grand Junction near the Colorado-Utah border in the scenic Book Cliffs. Project developers are proposing to dig tunnel entries, build many acres of surface facilities, a 14-mile rail line, an electric transmission line, and a 190-acre waste rock dump burying two drainages.

While some investors may be winners, the losers will be the climate, Colorado's canyon country wilderness, and wildlife, including deer and elk which depend on the area for important habitat.

Since the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owns the coal and the land, it will be your federal government approving the mine.  That's the good news. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires BLM to disclose the potential environmental impacts of building and operating the mine, and to evaluate ways to limit the mine's impact.

The bad news is the draft Environmental Impact Statement ignores key impacts and refuses to explore ways to improve this flawed project, according to Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski.

BLM's big failures include:

  • Ignoring the greenhouse gas impacts of methane -- 21 times more powerful than C02 as a cause of global warming. While there are technologies that can reduce by 90 percent the global warming impacts of methane venting, BLM doesn't seriously consider putting them in place.
  • Not even looking at impacts to deer and elk habitat -- as well as proposed wilderness lands -- that will be bulldozed for new roads and drill pads to vent methane. The Hunter Canyon proposed wilderness is particularly threatened.

"The Red Cliff Mine is a global warming nightmare," said Zukoski. "We'll be working with conservationists in Colorado and across the country to hold BLM accountable if it fails to protect the wildlife, wilderness and other values now at risk."