Office of Surface Mining public comment period draws large audience in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Office of Surface Mining public comment period draws large audience in Craig

Patrick Kelly





Steve Loshbaugh, a retired Colowyo employee who worked at the mine for 36 years, converses with Bob Postle, right, program support division manager for OSMRE's Western Region, at Wednesday night’s meeting.
Patrick Kelly

Moffat County Fairgrounds brimmed with activity Wednesday night as people gathered to participate in the public comment period for Colowyo coal mine's revamped environmental assessment.

The open-house style meeting, hosted by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, included displays and handouts explaining the situation at Colowyo's South Taylor Pit in the wake of a federal court ruling.

Attendees also had the opportunity for one-on-one conversation with representatives of OSMRE and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the company that owns Colowyo.

Bob Postle, program support division manager for OSMRE's Western Region, said the meeting is part of an effort to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

OSMRE was ordered to re-do its environmental assessment for South Taylor Pit within 120 days by federal district Judge R. Brooke Jackson. On May 8, Jackson ruled OSMRE had not complied with NEPA when approving Colowyo's 2007 mining plan modification.

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The meeting was important because OSMRE asked the public to learn as much as possible on the issue, enabling them to provide substantive comments, Postle said.

"We are here doing public outreach, we're here to provide an opportunity for people in the community to learn about the proposed action, about the mine, about NEPA, and to give them the opportunity to provide comments based on the information they've gathered here to help us with the development of that (environmental assessment)," he said.

Stephanie Ahlstrom attended the meeting because she has family and friends who work at the mine — including her husband, an employee at Colowyo for the past nine years.

"We felt it was important for us to come out and voice our opinion on the matter," she said.

Alhstrom was up to speed on the issue because of her husband's job at the mine, but she said there was plenty of information at the meeting for people who might not be familiar.

"Lot's of good information about the wildlife, the reclamations, the permitting process," she said. "I think it outlined pretty much everything very well."

Drew Kramer, public affairs manager for Tri-State, said he appreciates OSMRE's effort and the level of participation from the public.

"It's difficult for everybody to absorb all this information on a short time frame, but we're very grateful that they're making the effort," he said.

Comments to be considered by OSMRE during the preparation of the environmental assessment must be received by June 15. The outreach comment sheet with instructions on how to submit is available at: http://www.wrcc.osmre.gov/initiatives/colowyoMineSouthTaylor/documents/Colowyo_Outreach_Comment_Sheet.pdf

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