Federal officials have given the go-ahead for the sale of a big coal lease in central Utah, despite concern from conservation groups who say the move will hurt the environment.
The U.S. Interior Department announced on Wednesday that they had finalized a $22 million Greens Hollow coal lease, which was awarded to the owner of Sufco Mine.
The lease is an extension of the Sufco Mine. In 2014, the U.S. Forest Service released an environmental review of the area. According to the environmental review, the lease will extend the mine’s life by nine years.
Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management postponed the sale after conservation groups filed an appeal aimed at protecting sage grouse habitat.
Canyon Fuels Company, which operates Sufco, placed a bid of $23 million for the Greens Hollow tract back in January.
The Greens Hollow lease covers more than 9 square miles in Sanpete and Sevier counties. The BLM estimates the land contains more than 55 million tons of recoverable coal.
The Center for Biological Diversity, the Grand Canyon Trust, WildEarth Guardians, and the Sierra Club appealed the sale of the lease last September.
The Interior Department imposed a moratorium on new coal sales last year. This lease was grandfathered in because work on the sale was already far enough along when the moratorium was imposed.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who served under President Barack Obama, announced the moratorium to give the previous Administration the chance to review the coal leasing program.