Interior Department will not appeal court ruling against Colowyo Mine

July 8, 2015

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced that it will not appeal a U.S. Federal Court ruling that requires regulators to consider climate impacts of coal mining and threatens to close the Colowyo coal mine in Northwest Colorado because

According to a statement from Department of the Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw, “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.”

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said the decision is disappointing and he will follow up with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to ensure all the resources necessary to keep the mine open are allocated, The Craig Daily Press reported.

Colowyo Coal Co., a subsidiary of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, owns Colowyo Mine and was disappointed with Department of Interior’s decision while still hopeful about the upcoming review.

“We are disappointed that the government did not appeal the federal district court’s decision. Colowyo Mine remains confident that the U.S. Department of Interior and Office of Surface Mining are making every effort to complete the required environmental review within the 120-day period ordered by the court,” Tri-State’s Senior Manager of Corporate Communications and Public Affiars Lee Boughey wrote in an email to The Craig Daily Press. “These efforts help ensure compliance with the judge’s order while supporting the 220 employees of Colowyo Mine and communities across northwest Colorado.”

Judge R. Brooke Jackson on May 8 ordered the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to redo its environmental assessment for Colowyo’s South Taylor pit within 120 days or the mining plan would be voided.

Jackson’s order was the result of a claim brought by environmental advocacy group WildEarth Guardians. Guardians’ claim asserted the OSMRE did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it recommended approval of Colowyo’s mining plans to the Secretary of the Interior’s office in 2007.

Jackson agreed with the claim, specifically citing OSMRE’s failure to facilitate adequate public comment and take into account the indirect impacts of mining coal — steps he found were mandated by NEPA.

After the ruling, Jewell received an influx of letters from elected officials urging her to pursue an appeal of the decision.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and Tipton all joined Craig City Council and Moffat County Commissioners in addressing Jewell regarding the situation at Colowyo.

On July 2, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, the Colorado Competitive Council and the Colorado Energy Coalition sent a co-authored letter to Jewell voicing their concerns.

According to the letter, “this precedent could pose a threat to any activity on federal lands that performed an environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act in order to obtain federal leases and permits. That could stretch from energy development and mining, to agricultural grazing and ski resorts becoming vulnerable to retroactive legal challenges.”

Tri-State filed its notice of appeal May 29. It also filed a motion for stay pending appeal.



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