Thanks to everyone who has made their voice heard asking County Commissioners and the Forest Service to keep coal in the ground and to protect our roadless forests! Despite local efforts to encourage leadership for climate resiliency that moves us towards protecting our snowpack, rivers, forests, and wildflower meadows, the County Commissioners plan to submit a letter to the Forest Service in support of mining and resurrecting a coal carve-out (or exception) in North Fork roadless forests.  Although the County’s approach is not a surprise, it’s time to transition away from coal―a dying fossil fuel with boom-bust economics, and a major driver of climate change―towards a sustainable and climate resilient economy. Your voice has made the Commissioners note that the Forest Service needs to properly account for the carve-out’s impacts to recreation and tourism and that methane vented from the mining should be captured.

Even though the County process is now wrapped up, you have until May 22 to let the Forest Service know that you support the no action alternative that keeps coal in the ground and protects roadless forests that are vital carbon sinks!

This exception is full of negative climate consequences. Arch Coals’ West Elk Coal mine that seeks to expand into important roadless areas is a gassy operation that vents tons of methane per year. Methane is 56 times more potent that carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 20 year period, and recent studies have noted that this number may be greatly underestimated. When coal is burned, it releases toxins like mercury into the air while further contributing to climate change. West Elk Mine coal is estimated to produce 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per 1 ton of coal, meaning that an additional 972 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution would result should the exception be re-instated! After being burned, the residual coal ash can have devastating impacts on communities’ drinking water, as seen with the Duke Energy coal ash spill in North Carolina in February 2014.

Because Arch Coal has 11 years left of coal it can mine without having to enter a single roadless area, asking the Forest Service to choose the no action alternative does not have immediate negative impacts on local communities or to the royalties local governments receive.

Please write to the Forest Service supporting the no action alternative so coal is kept in the ground and important mid-elevation roadless forests are protected.

You can submit written comments to the Forest Service through May 22.  Tell the Forest Service it’s time to move beyond coal and that you want roadless forests protected!

To learn more about the Forest Service’s proposal and HCCA’s work to keep coal in the ground and our roadless forests protected click here.