Colorado coal mine appeals court ruling

June 3, 2015

The Colowyo Coal Co. has appealed a ruling that requires regulators to consider climate impact of coal mining and is fighting to keep the mine operating during the appeals process.

The Associated Press reported that the Colowyo Coal Co. asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, CO to overturn a ruling requiring federal regulators to redo their environmental review of operations at its mine near Craig, CO within four months. U.S. District Judge Brooke Jackson said the mine's permit would be yanked if the deadline was missed.

Such appeals normally take months to complete, so the company also asked Jackson to put his ruling on hold while the various legal issues are considered.

In their request to Jackson, Colowyo lawyers argue regulators might not be able to complete such a process in time, which could potentially put 220 miners out of work.

The Office of Surface Mining, Regulation and Enforcement, part of the Interior Department, posted notice of the new review May 22 and plans to accept public comments through June 15.

"Our intent is to finish the review within 120 days," said office spokesman Chris Holmes, who declined to elaborate.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and members of Colorado's congressional delegation have urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to make sure the review is completed in time to save the jobs and the $12 million the mine pays in taxes and royalties each year.

Jackson's ruling echoed another one he issued last year halting a mining expansion at Arch Coal Inc.'s West Elk mine in Somerset, CO. He halted it partly because the Bureau of Land Management considered but rejected calculating the impact of future greenhouse emissions of the new coal to be mined.

In April, another Denver federal judge, John Kane, ruled the surface mining office must consider the effects of burning coal at a northwestern New Mexico power plant before allowing an expansion of the Navajo Nation's Navajo Mine. Environmentalists there were mostly concerned with mercury pollution impacting fish in the San Juan River, not climate change.

The Navajo Nation company that owns the mine has appealed Kane's ruling to the 10th Circuit. The West Elk ruling was not appealed.



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