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Sierra Daily

Jul 12, 2012

Polluting Bryce Canyon to Power Los Angeles

So how does Los Angeles feel about polluting Bryce Canyon National Park in order to power its street lights and air conditioners? We will soon find out, because on August 1, when the Los Angeles City Council returns from its July break, it is expected to debate a resolution opposing the expansion of Alton Coal's stripmine in southern Utah onto public land.

What does that have to do with LA? One quarter of the city's electrical power comes from the Intermountain Power Project in Delta, Utah--the destination of Alton's coal. And as I recently reported in Sierra, the project has a slew of negative environmental and economic effects, not least of which is that the National Park Service fears that an expanded mine would degrade the famously pristine air quality which makes Bryce Canyon one of the nation's premiere destinations for stargazing.

Despite the fact that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has pledged to make the city coal-free by 2020, the council's decision won't be easy. One majorcomplication is that the city has contracted to buy power from the Intermountain Power Project through 2027. But since it's clear that LA would not renew the contract (California law, in fact, forbids the renewal of coal power contracts), Intermountain may see the writing in the coal dust and switch to natural gas--and a vote against Alton could inspire it to do so sooner rather than later.

My suggestion for the LA City Councilmembers is that they a few minutes to look at the excellent short video on the issue, below, produced in collaboration with Center for American Progress--part of a series called "Public Lands, Private Profits."


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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

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