Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, September 25, 2019


Matt Reed, High Country Conservation Advocates, (970) 349-7104,
Peter Hart, Wilderness Workshop, (970) 963-3977,
Allison Melton, Center for Biological Diversity, (970) 309-2008,
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663,
Sumer Shaikh, Sierra Club, (774) 545-0128,
Robin Cooley, Earthjustice, (303) 623-9466,

Federal Appeals Court to Hear Argument on Colorado Coal Mine Expansion

DENVER— The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Thursday from conservation groups seeking to protect approximately 4,900 acres of the Gunnison National Forest in Colorado from coal mine development.

The groups, appealing an earlier federal court ruling, also want the U.S. Forest Service to reduce climate pollution by requiring the West Elk coal mine, Colorado’s largest industrial emitter of methane, to flare the dangerous greenhouse gas from the mine instead of venting it.

The conservation groups are High Country Conservation Advocates, Wilderness Workshop, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club, all represented by Earthjustice.

What: Appeals court hearing challenging West Elk coal mine expansion in Colorado roadless forests

Where: Byron White U.S. Courthouse, 1823 Stout St., Denver, Colo., 80202

When: 8:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 26

Media Availability: Attorneys and conservation advocates will be available for interviews outside the courthouse after the hearing.

In April 2017 the Forest Service reinstated an exemption that made 19,700 acres of roadless forests in the North Fork of the Gunnison River open to coal leasing and mining. Months later the Trump administration approved Arch Coal’s lease to mine 17 million tons of coal on 1,720 acres of roadless forests in the Sunset Roadless area. Conservation groups sued, seeking to protect these pristine wildlands and force agencies to consider alternatives to minimize climate pollution.

On Thursday the appeals court will hear two main arguments. The first seeks to require the Forest Service to consider excluding the Pilot Knob roadless forest from the North Fork coal mine exemption. If adopted this would safeguard 4,900 acres of the Gunnison National Forest from potential coal leasing and protect wildlife including bald eagles, elk, mule deer and mountain lions.

The second claim says agencies should consider an alternative for the West Elk coal mine expansion that would flare methane from the mine instead of directly venting it into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas on steroids, and flaring would significantly reduce the mine’s climate pollution.

Read the Forest Service’s final environmental impact statement on the West Elk mine expansion.

Read more about the roadless area and what’s at stake.

See photos of the Sunset Roadless Area that the Forest Service has opened to bulldozing and the damage to nearby forests from Arch Coal mining operations.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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