Trump administration approves two coal mining projects in Utah
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the approval of two coal mining projects in southern Utah, including one nestled between two national parks in the state’s red rock region while “the war on coal is over.” In a news release, DOI said the projects would create new jobs and will further the Trump administration’s goal of “energy dominance.”
A $12 million project to expand a mine run by Alton Coal Development LLC will produce an estimated 1.8 t/a (2 stpy) of coal on land about 16 km (10 miles) west of Bryce Canyon National Park and about 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Zion National Park.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the mine is near the original boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, but it is not in lands cut from the monument in 2017 by Trump. So far, no coal mining has been done on those lands, according to state officials.
The other project was for lease modifications at a Sufco mine in Utah’s Sevier County in the central part of the state, which the agency says will extend the mine’s life by five years.
“American coal jobs matter,” said acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in the news release. “By approving these projects today, we will ensure that these mines are operational for years to come, providing well-paying jobs and affordable energy to the people of Utah.”
The Trump administration’s pro-coal policies to date have failed to stop the industry’s ongoing slide, as electric utilities across the U.S. continue to turn to cheaper and cleaner alternatives such as natural gas, solar and wind. Coal production nationwide totaled about 680 Mt (750 million st) in 2018. That’s a 3 percent drop from the prior year and down about 35 percent from the industry’s 2008 peak.
Republican members of Utah's congressional delegation expressed their support for the coal projects in the news release. U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney said "responsible energy development is important to Utah's energy industry and rural economies."
The Interior forecasts 100 new jobs at the Alton mine.