Judge rules coal mine can stay open during environmental review process

September 15, 2015

A federal judge approved a deal setting a deadline of April 30, 2016 for completion of a new environmental review of the Trapper Mine near Craig, CO.

The mine’s expansion has previously been approved, but that ruling was challenged by WildEarth Guardians.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported that U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson authorized an agreement developed between Trapper Mining, WildEarth Guardians and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement that will allow the coal mine to keep operating and keep its more than 180 workers working during the review.

“We are pleased that Judge Jackson recognized the good-faith efforts by (OSMRE), WildEarth Guardians and Trapper Mining to develop a reasonable process and timeline. We are looking forward to working with (OSMRE) to complete its enhanced environmental review and with all stakeholders to fully implement this process. Most importantly, we are pleased that the court’s prompt decision will ensure that mining operations continue at Trapper and that our employees remain on the job,” Jim Mattern, Trapper Mining’s president and general manager, said in a news release.

The parties to the deal are all parties in a lawsuit brought by WildEarth Guardians. In May, Jackson ruled that in 2009 and 2007, respectively, the federal government illegally approved expansions of Trapper and the Colowyo Coal Mine between Craig and Meeker. He found that OSMRE failed to provide public notice of the decisions or account for environmental impacts including those related to coal combustion.

The mines supply the coal burned by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s Craig Station power plant.

Jackson had given OSMRE 120 days to address the problem in the case of Colowyo to keep the expansion approval from being rescinded. That action would have temporarily shut down that mine, which employs about 220 people. OSMRE recently met the Colowyo deadline with completion of a new environmental review and finding that Colowyo’s continued operations in the expansion area would have no significant environmental impact.

Jackson had found in May the improper expansion approval was moot in the case of Trapper because the coal at issue already had been mined. But Trapper attorneys later learned, and informed Jackson, that in fact there was still unmined coal in the expansion area.

Under the agreement Jackson approved, Trapper can continue to operate during OSMRE’s review, but only in certain areas.


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