Colowyo coal mine avoids closure

September 9, 2015

A court-ordered review by the U.S. Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) found there was no significant environmental impact on climate change from the Colowyo Mine and validated the permit that was challenged by environmental groups.

The mine was in danger of closure because the permit that was issued eight years earlier did not take into account the mine's impact on climate change. An environmental group sued in a bid to invalidate the permit, reported.

The OSMREon May 8 was ordered by U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson to redo an environmental assessment of the Colowyo mine by Sept. 6.

Jackson warned that the mine could be shut down without an adequate assessment.

On Aug. 31, the OSMRE finalized a “finding of no significant impact,” and concluded that “mining operations under the modified Colowyo mining plan are not expected to have any significant environmental effect,” according to the court documents filed by attorneys for the U.S. Department of Interior.

“We are grateful to the staff at the Office of Surface Mining and the other cooperating agencies for their diligence and hard work to complete the environmental review within the short timeframe ordered by the judge,” Mike McInnes, chief executive officer of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which owns Colowyo Mine, said in a release.

“The unwavering support we have received from our 220 mine employees, the community and elected officials across Colorado helped ensure the Department of the Interior…committed the resources and time necessary to complete this important work,” he added.

In February 2013, environmental group WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit against OSMRE, claiming that its original assessment of Colowyo in 2007 did not take climate change into account, and in turn, violated the 2006 National Environmental Policy Act.

“The American public deserves an honest accounting of the environmental impacts of coal mining, including the climate impacts of burning coal, so we can be assured the right decisions are made,” WildEarth Guardians spokesman Jeremy Nichols told at the time. “The Interior Department has 120 days to do this analysis, which they were required to do in the first place under federal law, and there's no reason to believe they will not meet this deadline. It's unfortunate that the Interior Department's mistakes have created this situation, but thankfully, they're rising to the challenge.”

Nichols said that WEG likely will not challenge the decision and praised the federal agencies involved.


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