Our View: Judge R. Brooke Jackson should visit Northwest Colorado’s coal industry | CraigDailyPress.com

Our View: Judge R. Brooke Jackson should visit Northwest Colorado’s coal industry

The May 8 ruling against the Office of Surface Mining and Colowyo Coal Mine is deeply concerning to the residents of Moffat County. It's troublesome that Federal District Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled that OSM has only 120 days to complete an environmental assessment for mining plans.

The lawsuit was filed by environmental group WildEarth Guardians, alleging that OSM didn't follow proper environmental procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act when mining plans were approved for Colowyo Coal Mine roughly 10 years ago.

OSM is managed by the Department of Interior, and Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell is in charge of that department. Since Jackson ruled in favor of the WildEarth Guardians, our governor, two U.S. Colorado senators and Colorado's congressmen have all written letters asking Jewell and OSM to appeal the ruling. This lawsuit will set precedence for future coal mining cases, so we strongly urge Jewell and OSM to listen to our elected officials who have taken a nonpartisan stance on the issue. We stand behind and commend our elected officials and their call for an appeal. It's vitally important that Jewell and OSM fight tooth and nail for Colowyo's future.

The coal mine feeds coal to Craig Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in Colorado. If Colowyo shuts down, 220 people will directly lose their jobs and many more indirectly. Not only will the closure affect Moffat County's economy it will affect many others on the Western Slope who provide products and services to the mine as well as impacting the cities, counties and the state of Colorado's tax base.

We're concerned that the judge has no idea what kind of impact his ruling has on our community. We fear that he's just another Front Range resident with false ideas about the coal industry. Therefore, we're publicly asking Judge Jackson to visit Moffat County's coal mines and power plant. When and if he does, maybe he'll see how environmentally responsible our coal industry is in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

There are vast misconceptions about the coal industry within the environmental community and many on the Front Range. If those people would take the time to do their research, tour our coal mines and power plants, perhaps they'd realize that our mine owners, coal miners and plant operators work with the best interest of the environment and community. Our residents are proud to work in the energy industry and take a great deal of pride to ensure our community is a safe, healthy place to live.

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Our economy will not be able to sustain growth without affordable and reliable electricity produced by coal. If the Craig Station were to shut down for one month, many communities would not have the electricity they need. Rolling brownouts as they were in the booming economy of the early 2000s would be commonplace instead of a rarity as they are today. There is not enough wind and solar to produce the amount of electricity that consumers demand and this power plant produces with Colowyo Coal.

So, we ask Jewell and OSM to appeal Judge Jackson's decision, and we invite the judge to visit Northwest Colorado's coal industry. The editorial board would be happy to show you around Trapper, Colowyo and Craig Station, Judge Jackson.

Editorial Board:

Corrie Ponikvar — Community representative

Bonnie Hulstine — Community representative

Renee Campbell — Newspaper representative

Noelle Leavitt Riley — Newspaper representative

Amy Fontenot — Newspaper representative