Kudos for transparency to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and state Rep. Mike Noel, whose intentions for reducing the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are abundantly clear.
During the 2017 legislative session, Noel drafted a resolution explicitly calling for a reduction to access coal found on the Kaiparowits Plateau. When addressing the state Legislature, Hatch told lawmakers he had discussed the inaccessible coal with President Trump ("inaccessible" due to the monument designation). Later, we learned he urged the president to review monuments designated within the last 21 years, conveniently including Grand Staircase. During Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's Utah visit, Noel was front and center showing him coal seams currently within the monument's boundaries, yet off-limits for extraction. Noel's bold resolution and Hatch's influence upon Trump are crucial reminders of the risk Grand Staircase faces.
Hatch and Noel blindly advocate for coal development, regardless of facts and figures showing declining coal production and consumption. As the country transitions toward natural gas and renewable resources, coal is becoming obsolete. A 2017 Utah Foundation study shows our state following the national trend, regardless of Utah's high dependence on coal. These economic trends are further reflected in other areas where coal is king, as in Appalachia. Cheaper energy has forced the coal industry to shift toward automation, making the process more efficient and cheaper than human labor. Given the decline in coal production and shift to automation, accessing coal on the Kaiparowits would not guarantee jobs.