Feds approve Colowyo Coal Mine’s Collom expansion | CraigDailyPress.com

Feds approve Colowyo Coal Mine’s Collom expansion

Lauren Blair
A recent environmental assessment by Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement began a comment period regarding plans for an expansion of operations for Colowyo Mine.

The Collom expansion at Colowyo Mine received final approval this week from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management.

— The Collom expansion at Colowyo Coal Mine received final approval from federal officials, according to a press release from Tri-State Generation & Transmission, Inc.

The expansion adds 28 acres to current federal coal leases and will give the mine access to another 79 million tons of federal coal. In turn, it helps secure Colowyo’s 220 jobs for at least another two decades.

“Given the shortfalls that the county is facing, anytime we get news like this, it may only be a portion of the pie, but it’s a huge portion,” said Moffat County Commissioner and former Craig Mayor Ray Beck. “We know this won’t only impact our budget, but it will impact the local economy and local business.”

Unlike Colowyo’s current mining operation at the South Taylor Pit, half of which lies in Rio Blanco County, the Collom expansion lies entirely in Moffat County. All relevant tax revenues from mining coal from the Collom development will therefore stream into Moffat County.

“It’s great news for the county,” said Moffat County Commissioner Don Cook. “It just validates all the work everybody’s done for the last year.”

The assessment took several years and included a thorough public comment process — completed in early 2016 — and environmental review. After receiving a recommendation from the Bureau of Land Management in June, the project was awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management.

“This decision is important to the future of our member electric cooperatives and the people we serve,” said Tri-State’s Chief Executive Officer Mike McInnes in a statement. “Our member electric cooperatives will continue to access a reliable fuel supply and the economic benefits from mining operations will be sustained for northwest Colorado communities.”

The environmental assessment included extra safeguards for greater sage-grouse habitat.

“The approved mining plan includes significant protections for wildlife,” the release said. “Tri-State donated 4,543 acres of high priority sagebrush habitat to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which will manage the land for the benefit of greater sage-grouse. Tri-State also donated $150,000 to the state agency for continued sage-grouse research.”

Colowyo Mine supplies coal to nearby Craig Station, operated and partially owned by Tri-State. Tri-State’s operations have a $200 million impact on the regional economy and generate $12 million in local, state and federal tax revenue, according to the release.

“Tri-State is thankful for the strong bipartisan support the project received from the community and elected officials at all levels,” McInnes said.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.

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