Moffat County BOCC supports proposed coal lease
CRAIG — During a special meeting Nov. 29, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners publicly proclaimed its support for Twentymile Coal Mine’s application to lease an additional 3.7 million tons of federal coal, according to a news release from the BOCC.
A study of the proposed lease estimates it will have a direct impact of $153 million, supporting 269 jobs in Moffat and Routt counties, and a total impact of about $230 million and 523 jobs.
Moffat County testified in support of the proposal during a Nov. 28 public hearing hosted by the Bureau of Land Management.
“We proudly stand with BLM and Twentymile Coal,” said BOCC Chairman Ray Beck in the news release. “This community is vigilant and once again will demonstrate it has a long history of responsibly mining coal, while also protecting the environment.”
Twentymile Mine — though located in Routt County — is a significant contributer to Moffat County’s economy, with some 60 percent of its workforce residing here.
Twentymile’s operations also support the state’s economy as a whole, with the mine producing enough coal to supply 10-percent of Colorado’s annual energy needs.
If approved, the new lease is expected to produce more than $13 million in royalities, half of which would be used to fund basic state operations, including transportation, education, health care, and law enforcement, according to the release.
A portion of the royalties would also be returned to local communities as energy impact grants, which have built and supported local projects such as Shadow Mountain Village infrastructure improvements, playground equipment in Moffat County parks, senior housing projects, and various county road and bridge construction and maintenance projects.
Even so, the proposed lease is not without detractors.
The release stated that representative from Wild Earth Guardians — an environmental group — also attended the Nov. 28 BLM hearing to challenge the lease, but Moffat County’s representatives, joined by others, stood firm in their support of the vital role of coal in local communities.
“Wild Earth Guardians doesn’t seem to comprehend that coal will remain a baseload power supply for the forseeable future,” Commissioner Don Cook said in the release. “We cannot immediately depend on renewables for all our current energy needs.”
Commissioner Frank Moe agreed, charging Wild Earth Guardians with “playing politics.”
“Wild Earth Guardians is taking advantage of the recent statewide election results and playing politics, because they cannot fault Twentymile’s exemplary mining and reclamation operations,” Moe said.
Reached for additional comment Thursday, Beck said the proposal will now go through a public comment period — which has been extended to Dec. 21.
After that, the district and state offices of the BLM will review comments for changes and new information, and based on that review, comments will be incorporated into the environmental assessment, to be followed by a record of decision.
Finally, the record of decision will be followed by a 30-day appeal process.
Beck said the entire process will likely be completed in first quarter of 2019.
Contact Jim Patterson at 970-875-1790 or jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.