Should mine ex­pan­sions be OK’D?

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE -

Re: “Don’t starve coal plants,” Aug. 6 ed­i­to­rial.

The Den­ver Post’s ed­i­to­rial on coal min­ing is se­verely mis­in­formed. First, it as­serts that deny­ing the West Elk Mine’s ex­pan­sion may “starve” power plants out of com­mis­sion, when in­stead we must care­fully plan a tran­si­tion from coal. But West Elk al­ready has a decade of coal un­der lease, pro­vid­ing time for tran­si­tion. West Elk sells much of its coal over­seas, and none in Colorado last quar­ter, so lim­it­ing the ex­pan­sion wouldn’t “starve” lo­cal util­i­ties.

Sec­ond, The Post’s “faith in state and fed­eral agen­cies to ad­e­quately reg­u­late” coal min­ing is mis­placed. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has elim­i­nated rules pro­tect­ing streams from coal waste, moved to gut lim­its on util­i­ties’ green­house pol­lu­tants, and re­pealed mea­sures to en­sure coal com­pa­nies can’t short-change tax­pay­ers of roy­al­ties. And while Colorado law lim­its meth­ane waste from oil and gas op­er­a­tions, the state has done zero to reg­u­late emis­sions from the state’s sin­gle largest meth­ane pol­luter: West Elk’s mine. Ted Zukoski, Den­ver

The writer is staff at­tor­ney for Earthjus­tice.

Your ed­i­to­rial on the West Elk Mine misses the key pol­icy is­sue. Arch Coal is ask­ing for a sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic sub­sidy in the form of de­filed lands, in­creased at­mo­spheric meth­ane, di­min­ished recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties, and loss of scarce, valu­able habi­tat.

What does the pub­lic re­ceive? The com­pany ar­gues that it should not even pay its fair share of roy­al­ties due from past and fu­ture min­ing on pub­lic lands, so that min­ing jobs slated for phase-out are pro­longed two years. But the com­pany it­self has been in and out of bank­ruptcy and now wants to milk sig­nif­i­cant sub­si­dies from the pub­lic trea­sury. Why not use our pub­lic cap­i­tal to help min­ers and tran­si­tion them to jobs of the fu­ture?

The For­est Ser­vice, des­ig­nated to pro­tect pub­lic lands and the pub­lic in­ter­est, should re­ject Arch Coal’s ex­pan­sion, se­cure in the knowl­edge that it is serv­ing the na­tion’s eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ter­ests. Ti­mothy E. Wirth, Boul­der The writer is a for­mer U.S. sen­a­tor from Colorado and is vice chair­man and pres­i­dent emer­i­tus of the United Na­tions Foun­da­tion.

The Post’s ed­i­to­rial em­ploys a col­lec­tion of con­tra­dic­tions in the cause of sound coal pol­icy. The ed­i­to­rial board notes the need for state and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to work to limit vent­ing or flar­ing large amounts of meth­ane. Agreed. Meth­ane should not be in­ten­tion­ally re­leased and wasted. Pe­riod.

How­ever, the board mis­tak­enly claims cli­mate change is a “dis­tant” threat. Visit the Western Slope to see ever­green forests dec­i­mated by in­sect in­fes­ta­tions. In­sects live longer be­cause sus­tained win­ter cold is rare due to the ris­ing tem­per­a­tures ac­com­pa­ny­ing cli­mate change right now.

And the board naively af­firms its faith in state and fed­eral agen­cies to reg­u­late the coal in­dus­try. In fact, the Grand Mesa Un­com­pah­gre and Gun­ni­son Na­tional Forests are spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars to “cli­mate-proof” the land­scape while green-light­ing the West Elk Mine ex­pan­sion and ac­cel­er­at­ing cli­mate change.

If we care about Colorado’s forests, we must end our coal ad­dic­tion. Steven R. Reed, Grand Junc­tion

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