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Guardians Calls on Interior Department to Abandon New Mexico Coal Mining Plans

Peabody Lease Would Unleash More Global Warming Pollution, Threaten Chaco Canyon

Farmington, NM—Guardians fired back today against the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management over their plans to lease 9 million tons of coal for Peabody to strip mine from the desert of northwestern New Mexico, a move that will ultimately fuel global warming, threaten the sanctity of the Chaco Canyon landscape, and block the development of clean energy in the southwest.

“While the President is calling for swift action to combat global warming, the Interior Department is rushing to rubberstamp more coal mining and burning in the American West,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director.  “We’re calling on the Interior Department to abandon its plans and to put our climate, not the coal industry, first.”

At issue is a 640-acre federal coal lease sought by Peabody Energy to expand the company’s El Segundo mine, currently the biggest coal mine in New Mexico.  Located north of Grants, New Mexico, every year more than eight million tons of coal is stripped from the mine and shipped to power plants in the southwest, primarily in Arizona.  The Bureau of Land Management estimates that every ton of coal from the El Segundo mine produces 1.76 metric tons of carbon.

The proposed lease would open the door for 9.2 million tons of coal to be strip mined, ultimately releasing more than 15.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the amount released annually by more than 3.2 million passenger vehicles.

In comments submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, Guardians called on the Agency to abandon its plans to lease to Peabody, pointing out the threats posed by the mine to clean air in the region, the climate, and to Chaco Canyon.

Despite disclosing that mining will fuel air pollution problems and that the coal will be burned in nearby power plants, producing more smokestack pollution, toxic coal ash, and water contamination, the Bureau asserted that there would be “no significant impacts.”

“The Bureau of Land Management’s logic is about as backward as it gets,” said Nichols.  “In midst of our climate crisis, it is absolutely insane for the Bureau to assert that more coal is somehow ‘insignificant.’  At the end of the day, these latest leasing plans promise only to further entrench us in dirty energy, making it all the more difficult to transition to clean energy.” 

A previous attempt by the Bureau of Land Management to approve the El Segundo coal lease was already thwarted once by WildEarth Guardians.  The latest proposal is the second attempt by the Bureau to lease to Peabody.


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