Our View: Sally Jewell needs to speak up | CraigDailyPress.com

Our View: Sally Jewell needs to speak up

It's been 64 days since a federal judge gave the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement 120 days to redo an assessment on Northwest Colorado's Colowyo Coal Mine.

The ruling stated that OSMRE did not follow the proper environmental assessment policies as it pertains to public comment. If the 120-day deadline is not met, Colowyo will shut down, putting 220 jobs in jeopardy.

The Office of Surface Mining is a federal branch of government that is managed by the United States Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell. Basically, a federal judge said her office did not follow policy.

The issue has become national news, prompting media coverage from the New York Times, Washington Times, Denver Post, Daily Sentinel, Colorado Public Radio and — of course — Craig Daily Press, to name a few.

Jewell has yet to make a statement on the ruling. Her office hasn't even sent out a press release on the controversy. When asked if her office was going to appeal the ruling Tuesday, a member of her staff gave a statement — not her.

As it turns out, the Department of Interior will not appeal the ruling. Jewell's press secretary sent Craig Daily Press the following statement:

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"The Department of the Interior including the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement take our NEPA responsibilities seriously, including the robust public participation in any environmental reviews. We are not appealing the court's decision, but are on track to address the deficiencies in the Colowyo permit within the 120-day period," the emailed statement said.

The statement was not from Jewell, but instead from Jessica Kershaw, the DOI spokeswoman.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was in Craig on Friday speaking with elected officials about the fate of Colowyo. When asked how he felt about Jewell not making a public statement about the ruling, he said, "The Secretary of the Interior needs to speak and we need to hear the commitment from the highest levels of our government."

We agree. It's concerning that she hasn't addressed the press, but it's even more worrisome that she hasn't personally addressed the hundreds of people in Northwest Colorado affected by the lawsuit.

Jewell needs to make herself available to the public, the press and the concerned constituents of Colorado.

The ruling has become a bipartisan issue. Since the ruling, Colorado Republicans and Democrats have all sent Jewell letters of concern. She's not responded.

On Thursday, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Gardner and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton sent Jewell a letter stating the "the executive branch has a duty to defend its permitting actions."

The letter goes on to state, "We are truly appreciative of the early actions taken by agency officials. We remain concerned, however, about the rapidly approaching deadline, and your department's decision to not appeal the court's decision has done nothing to allay this concern."

We, too, are concerned DOI did not appeal.

Therefore we call on Jewell to address the issue.

The ruling greatly affects three Colorado counties — Rio Blanco, Moffat and Routt. The economic impact of Colowyo, both direct and indirect, on the three counties is $206 million annually.

Yes, Jewell, this is a big deal that you need to step up and talk about.

Editorial Board:

Corrie Ponikvar — Community representative

Bonnie Hulstine — Community representative (absent)

Renee Campbell — Newspaper representative

Noelle Leavitt Riley — Newspaper representative