Moffat County officials to meet with Secretary Jewell regarding Colowyo Mine | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County officials to meet with Secretary Jewell regarding Colowyo Mine

No plans yet for Jewell to visit Craig

— Several Moffat County officials have been invited to sit down with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell Friday evening in Glenwood Springs to discuss the future of Colowyo Mine.

The meeting comes in response to continued pressure on Jewell to address the May 8 ruling against the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement — an agency within the Department of Interior — that threatens to shut down Colowyo Mine if a new environmental assessment isn't complete by the Sept. 6 deadline.

Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid, Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock and Craig Mayor Ray Beck are among the "local elected and community leaders" to meet with Jewell Friday, according to an Interior Department press release. It is unknown who else will attend the meeting.

However, the meeting is not open to the public, as there aren't enough elected officials meeting with Jewell to have the Colorado open meeting laws apply.

"Our future in Moffat County and Craig are in jeopardy," Beck said. "I just hope she'll take our comments seriously."

Jewell was met with criticism this week when it was announced that she would be traveling to Colorado to speak at the Aspen Institute's Hurst lecture series on Friday, but had no plans to visit Craig, a three-hour drive from Aspen. A member of Jewell's staff explained in an email that, "given the secretary’s pre-existing commitments and travel schedule, we’re meeting folks half way in Glenwood Springs, not in Craig."

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She has been encouraged to visit the region by Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton, all of whom have written letters requesting her attention to the Colowyo matter.

"I think it is important that she still comes up (to Moffat and Rio Blanco counties) and if nothing else, tours the mine or visits with our constituents here in both counties," Kinkaid said. "As far as Friday's meeting, it's a step in the right direction. I think having open lines of communication between Northwest Colorado and the secretary's office are crucial."

Advancing Colorado — a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization committed to "holding government accountable and preventing… unnecessary regulations," according to its website — criticized Jewell Wednesday for not taking time to visit Craig.

“Secretary Jewell needs a cold splash of reality and needs to make the visit to the Colowyo mine because she doesn’t seem to understand the dangerous impacts of the Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit, nor does she seem to take seriously the fact this lawsuit will economically capsize an entire community,” Advancing Colorado Executive Director Jonathan Lockwood said in a statement.

Though her office has issued statements, Jewell herself has not yet publicly addressed the issues facing Colowyo Mine, however she did send Bennet a letter Wednesday, responding to a letter that Bennet, Gardner and Tipton sent her, expressing their disappointment that she chose not to appeal the court's decision against OSMRE.

"The OSMRE is addressing the outstanding NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) deficiencies for the Colowyo Mine and working to meet the timeline issued by the Court," Jewell wrote in the letter. "We believe this will prove to be the most direct and effective path to address the legal vulnerabilities already identified by the court while providing the mines at issue certainty and the ability to continue to operate. We are very mindful of the urgency of this matter…"

Kinkaid said he also plans to talk to Jewell about greater sage grouse, another point of intersection between Moffat County and new federal regulations, but that the bottom line is ensuring Colowyo miners can count on keeping their jobs.

"I would like some assurances as much as she can give them to us that this process will be completed in a timely manner," Kinkaid said. "I just want some assurance that our miners can keep going to work."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.

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