Panel discusses Colowyo in Steamboat Springs | CraigDailyPress.com

Panel discusses Colowyo in Steamboat Springs

Patrick Kelly

Panelists Lee Boughey, Dan Byers, Raymond Gifford and moderator Amy Oliver Cooke discussed upcoming Environmental Protection Agency regulations and the situation at Colowyo Coal Mine on Wednesday night at a public meeting hosted by the Steamboat Institute.

As a part of their monthly speaker series, The Steamboat Institute hosted a panel of experts Wednesday night at Strings Music Pavillon to discuss "The Coming Storm of Federal Energy Regulations and Their Impact on Colorado Business."

The three-person panel discussed upcoming Environmental Protection Agency regulations and the situation at Colowyo Coal Mine before taking questions from the audience.

Panel members included Raymond Gifford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer attorney and former chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission; Dan Byers, senior director of policy for U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy; and Lee Boughey, senior manager of corporate communications and public affairs for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the electric co-op that owns Colowyo Coal Mine.

Amy Oliver Cooke, director of the Energy Policy Center Independence Institute, moderated the discussion.

Each panelist gave opening remarks, with Gifford addressing the EPA's Clean Power Plan first.

"The bottom line is what the Clean Power Plan does, in a very short period of time, is force utilities and force states to make very dramatic decisions about their energy portfolio," he said, noting the complexity of implementing the plan.

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Byers followed up by providing background on a proposed EPA ozone rule.

"The rule essentially says we're going to tighten the level of ozone in the air that we think is safe for public health," he said.

About two-thirds of the country would be in violation of the new standard that the rule sets, Byers said.

"Essentially, it's a handcuff on economic development," he said.

Next, Boughey discussed the environmental-advocacy group WildEarth Guardians' claim against the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement regarding Colowyo mine.

The situation at Colowyo came to a head May 8 when federal district Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled in favor of the Guardians, stating that OSMRE did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when recommending the approval of mining plans at Colowyo's South Taylor Pit.

Boughey related what is going on at Colowyo to the regulations the other two panelists had just introduced.

"It takes something like what we have with Colowyo mine to really capture people's attention about the impact regulations or legislative actions or even a lawsuit have on communities," he said.

After the opening remarks, Cooke asked the panelists several questions, including whether or not these proposed regulations will stand up to legal scrutiny.

"I think any fair-minded lawyer would say what the EPA is doing with the Clean Power Plan stretches the bounds of the Clean Air Act," Gifford said.

However, Gifford noted the court hearing the appeals would be the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which has four judges recently appointed under President Barack Obama's administration.

"I think it's widely believed that those D.C. circuit appointments were made for the express purpose to waive through the regulatory agenda of this administration," he said.

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

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