Colowyo comment period closes
August 18, 2015
Last Friday at midnight, the public comment period for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's preliminary environmental assessment of Colowyo Coal Mine's South Taylor Pit came to a close.
Bob Postle, program support division manager for OSMRE's Western Region, said it is hard to give an overarching idea of what the comments say or how many were received, but plenty were both for and against coal mining at Colowyo.
All comments are categorized and given a response from OSMRE.
According to Postle, the real focus of the comment period was to provide feedback on the nature of the environmental assessment and its adequacy. With those substantive comments, improvements to the assessment can be made, he explained.
"What we're really looking for is comments that are substantive comments on the (environmental assessment) on places where we either need to improve or respond to the comment why we aren't changing it," he said.
Postle said it is safe to guess that the most comprehensive and applicable comments came from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which owns Colowyo, and environmental advocacy group WildEarth Guardians.
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Stations for comments were set up all over Craig and Meeker, giving residents an opportunity to weigh in their thoughts during the comment period.
When the final environmental assessment is released Sept. 5 there will be a section summarizing the comments.
Lee Boughey, senior manager of corporate communication and public affairs at Tri-State, said Tri-State is grateful for the strong support from the community and its engagement with the public process.
"We remain confident OSMRE is doing all they can to meet the requirements of the Judge's order," he said.
On May 8, federal district Judge R. Brooke Jackson ordered that OSMRE re-do it's environmental assessment for Colowyo mine's South Taylor Pit, ruling that the original assessment did not comply with federal law.
Jackson's ruling is the result of a claim brought by environmental advocacy Group WildEarth Guardians. Guardians' claim asserted OSMRE did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it recommended approval of Colowyo's mining plans to the Secretary of the Interior's office in 2007.
Jackson agreed with the claim, specifically citing OSMRE's failure to facilitate adequate public comment and take into account the indirect impacts of mining coal — steps he found were mandated by NEPA.