Craig officials respond to Friday’s meeting with Sally Jewell | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig officials respond to Friday’s meeting with Sally Jewell

Noelle Leavitt Riley

Moffat County officials delivered this card to U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell on Friday in Glenwood Springs.

Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt county officials are fighting hard for the Northwest Colorado communities in light of the Colowyo situation.

Craig Mayor Ray Beck said that Friday night's meeting in Glenwood Springs with U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell went well, and he felt assured that Jewell's department will successfully complete the environmental assessment needed to keep Colowyo Coal Mine open.

A total of 14 representatives sat at the table with Jewell, expressing concerns about what's next for Colowyo and the greater sage grouse issue.

Representatives from U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner’s offices sat with Jewell, and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton appeared in person to show support for Colowyo, Beck said. Additionally, there was at least one commissioner from Routt, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties also present.

Moffat County Commissioner Chair John Kinkaid outlined a personal side to the coal industry in Northwest.

"He tried to bring across the human element," Beck said of Kinkaid. "He talked about his son… Then he pointed to the cards and said all of the people on the cards had a story to share."

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Moffat County Comissioner Frank Moe and Craig community member Neil Folks spent Thursday encouraging community members to sign two large cardboard cards stating, "Dear Ms. Jewell, Please let us keep our jobs! Thank you!"

Rio Blanco Commissioner Jeff Eskelson told Jewell that his constituents didn't feel represented by her, and he asked her how she can help.

"That's when she actually stated that the (environmental assessment) is moving forward, and if it doesn't meet the Sept. 6 deadline, she would file an extension," Beck said. "That was affirmation for us."

The Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado drafted a letter to give to Jewell that night.

The end of the letter stated, "Finally, we urgently request that you visit Moffat and Rio Blanco counties… Come look into the faces of the people whose lives are in your hands and listen to their stories."

After the meeting, Kinkaid issued the following statement, "Secretary Jewell expressed strong confidence last night that the necessary work to satisfy Judge Jackson’s ruling will be completed on time. We did get the secretary’s assurance that, if for some unforeseen reason the mine permit work is not completed in time, DOI will ask Jackson for an extension, so Colowyo miners can keep working. She also expressed confidence that Jackson would grant an extension, if needed."

Beck also spoke at the meeting.

"I told her thanks for giving us time," Beck said. "I said, 'as the mayor of Craig, I have serious concerns for my community. When Judge Jackson issued the ruling on May 8, it literally sent shockwaves through the community and caused economic uncertainty. As an example, people that wanted to buy a car put it off. People looking at buying a house decided not to go down that road.'"

He went on to tell Jewell that the nation has its eye on Craig.

"We are at the epicenter of environmental rules and regulations. Instead of imposing regulations and unfunded mandates on businesses and free enterprise, let's find ways to work together by mitigating issues and concerns such as the greater sage grouse potential listing, proposed rules by the EPA-CO2 emissions at the Tri-State Power Plant and the mining permits," Beck told Jewell, noting that she's actually a pretty nice person. "It came across to me that Sally Jewell does have a compassionate side. We found that she does have a sense of humor. I think it was a very relaxed meeting."

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