BLM withdraws approval for Peabody coal tract in New Mexico

WildEarth Guardians said Oct. 30 that it has overturned at the Interior Board of Land Appeals a Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) plan to expand the reserve area for the El Segundo strip mine in New Mexico.

“This is a win for clean energy and a safe climate in New Mexico, as well as the cultural integrity of the Chaco landscape,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “These strip mining plans were misguided from the start; thankfully, they’re thwarted for the time being.”

In early 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved an application from Peabody for a new coal lease at the El Segundo  mine. The mine is located 15 miles east of Crownpoint and only 30 miles south of Chaco Culture National Historical Park and is visible from within the park, WildEarth Guardians noted.

The mine has been producing more than 8 million tons of coal annually, more than any other mine in New Mexico. The mine’s coal is shipped and burned in power plants in eastern Arizona, including the Springerville, Cholla, Apache, and Coronado power plants, the environmental group noted.

The new lease would add 11.2 million tons of coal to the mine’s reserves, covering 640 acres. According to Peabody, the lease would have enabled the company to ultimately access 143 million tons of coal.

In August, Guardians challenged BLM’s decision before the land appeals board, detailing how it said the agency failed to meet legal obligations to safeguard the environment. On Oct. 24, BLM filed a a request for remand, conceding that its decision was flawed, the group said. On Oct. 29, the board set aside the BLM decision and remanded it back to the agency. It is unclear whether BLM will attempt to reissue the El Segundo coal lease, Guardians said, though the agency said in its remand request that it does intend to issue a revised Record of Decision in this matter.

A Peabody spokesperson said Oct. 31 that the company looks forward to working with the BLM regarding its plan to issue a revised record of decision as part of the company’s long-term mine planning activities for El Segundo.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.