OSMRE releases Colowyo environmental assessment ahead of deadline | CraigDailyPress.com

OSMRE releases Colowyo environmental assessment ahead of deadline

Patrick Kelly

South Taylor Pit at Colowyo Coal Mine.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has completed its environmental assessment of Colowyo Coal Mine and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact. Sometime this week, it will issue a mining plan recommendation to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Office.

If the recommendation issued by OSMRE is approved, it "would authorize Colowyo to conduct surface coal mining on approximately 809 acres of previously undisturbed land and 441 acres previously approved at the Colowyo Coal Mine. Approximately 23.3 million tons of federal coal will be extracted at a maximum rate of 4.0 (million tons per year) from 2015 until the end of mining in about 2019," according to OSMRE.

On May 8, Federal District Judge R. Brooke Jackson ordered OSMRE to redo its environmental assessment for Colowyo mine's South Taylor Pit within 120 days, ruling that the original assessment did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The deadline for the assessment was Sept. 6.

According to a news release from Tri-State, "Colowyo Mine and our 220 employees are grateful for the diligence and hard work of the staff at OSM that completed the environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact within the timeframe ordered by the court. We are deeply appreciative of the support we've received from our employees, the community and elected officials at all levels."

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, praised the news in a press release and urged Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to sign and submit the final plan as soon as possible.

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"This news will help relieve significant anxiety in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties," Bennet said.

Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians, the environmental advocacy group that sued OSMRE over Colowyo's mining plan, Jeremy Nichols said the Interior Department's effort is to be applauded.

"They clearly messed up, but they rose to the occasion," he said, adding that the new assessment is a huge improvement, and he hopes it will set the tone for future lease approvals.

However, Nichols said Guardians would continue to aggressively push its goal of keeping coal in the ground.

"I think we're going to get to a point where we will ask a judge to shut down a coal mine — without a doubt, that situation will happen," he said.

For more information on the environmental assessment visit OSMRE's website at http://www.wrcc.osmre.gov/initiatives/colowyoMineSouthTaylor.shtm.

Reach Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@craigdailypress.com. Follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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