Editorial: Moffat County’s Colowyo Mine taking strides toward securing area’s future | CraigDailyPress.com

Editorial: Moffat County’s Colowyo Mine taking strides toward securing area’s future

Editorial Board Renee Campbell, publisher Jim Patterson, editor Sasha Nelson, reporter Brian MacKenzie, community representative Shannon Moore, community representative Contact the Editorial Board at editor@CraigDailyPress.com.

Last week, officials with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., owner of the Colowyo Mine, provided an update on the proposed Collom Expansion, which will add 28 acres to existing federal coal leases and give the mine access to another 79 million tons of federal coal.

While not heavy on details, the update still gives cause for celebration.

The expansion won Environmental Protection Agency approval in January, and later the same month, the public comment period for the project’s final air quality permit was closed.

Now, Tri-State is awaiting a decision on the permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment — expected within about a month — and is currently building a road to the future pit.

According to Barry Ingold, Tri-State’s vice president of generation, the mine expects to begin digging above the coal seam by the end of the year, assuming the air quality permit is approved.

This is great news for Craig and Moffat County. The expansion is expected to secure the mine’s 220 jobs for at least another two decades and, since the Collom Expansion lies entirely within Moffat County, all associated tax revenues generated by mining operations there will stay in Moffat County.

Moreover, as part of the plan’s mitigation efforts, Tri-State has agreed to give 4,543 acres of priority habitat in the Axial Basin to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife and is donating $150,000 to CPW for a study on how mining activities affect greater sage grouse habitat.

This is a sterling example of how coal mining and environmental responsibility can coexist and proof positive that the two concerns are not mutually exclusive.

And this is but one example of the environmental awareness exhibited by our area coal companies.

  • In terms of the Collom Expansion, Tri-State — in partnership with Colorado Parks & Wildlife — spent four or five years trapping and relocating sharptail grouse from the location.
  • Peabody has committed itself to reclamation efforts at the old Empire Mine site, even though the company has never mined anything from the site.
  • Trapper has invested millions in open pit reclamation.
  • All our area mines have assumed active roles in carbon sequestration efforts in the state of Colorado.

In this age of heightened environmental awareness, coal all too often gets an undeservedly bad rap, and the truth is, coal-fired power production probably won’t be around forever. It is reasonable to assume that, one day, humans will devise a viable method to meet our ever-increasing power demands without relying on our finite stores of fossil fuels.

But the fact is, that day is a long way off, and until it arrives, coal is what we have. And to coin a couple of sayings, it’s what keeps the lights burning and the engines turning.

In short, it is the backbone of our community.

Coal mines and the power plant have been very supportive of our city and our county.

We should support them in return.

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