Sen. Gardner drafts letter to OSM, Sally Jewell | CraigDailyPress.com

Sen. Gardner drafts letter to OSM, Sally Jewell

Craig Daily Press Staff Report

Moffat County Commissioners met with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, on Saturday morning in Mesa County to discuss the recent lawsuit that threatens Colowyo Coal Company.

The senator drafted a letter to Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, asking her to have the Office of Surface Mining appeal the decision by Federal District Judge R. Brooke Jackson, who ruled OSM did not comply with federal law when it approved mining plans for Colowyo and Trapper mines roughly 20 years ago.

Jackson gave 120 days for OSM to complete an environmental analysis for Colowyo mine, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. If it's not done in that time frame, the mine will be have to stop operations, which could put 120 people out of work.

"I'm very happy that we've got the correspondence and support of our senator and our congressman, and the governor, for that matter," said Moffat County Commission Chair John Kinkaid. "Cory Gardner said they would send the final draft to me before they send the letter. They didn't give a timeline, but I'm sure it will be sooner than later because we have a very short compliance timeline."

The letter outlines reasons why Jewell and OSM should appeal.

"We write to urge you to take all necessary and appropriate action to ensure the continued operation of the Colowyo Coal Mine, which is a critical component of Northwest Colorado's regional economy and has responsibly operated in the eight years since the mine plan approval was issued by your office," the letter states. "Coal produced by this mine, located in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, is then used to generate power at Craig Station and is responsible for employing over 200 people with a payroll of around $20 million. Requested actions include urgently deploying sufficient personnel with the resources and expertise to complete the supplemental NEPA work within the 120 day window provided by the district court."

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The lawsuit was brought by WildEarth Guardians and was heard by the district judge May 8.

The Craig Daily Press will keep readers updated on what happens with the letter, the lawsuit and any developments regarding an appeal.

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