The Interior Department’s Environmental Assessment of the South Taylor Pit of Colowyo Mine was signed by Assistant Secretary of the Interior Janice Schneider and has been officially filed. Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe said he received a phone call from Janice Snyder of the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) to let him know that the timely filing fulfills the order by U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson, who gave the Office of Surface Mining 120 days to bring the permit into compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The new assessment shows that the mine’s operations do NOT create a significant environmental impact. The filing brings to a close the events that lead to the fear in Northwest Colorado that mining operations at Colowyo would cease, put 220 miners out of work and devastate local economies.
From: Maria Nájera -Special Assistant | Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs | Office of the Secretary Department of the Interior:
The Assistant Secretary’s approval is supported by an Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of NoSignificant Impact (FONSI) prepared by the Western Regional office ofInterior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, as well as a Biological Opinion (Appendix D in the EA) prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Assistant Secretary Schneider concurred with the FONSI, and subsequently approved the mining plan, which will allow the mine to continue operation in a manner consistent with Federal and state requirements.
An update will be provided to the court letting them know OSMRE has completed an environmental assessment and issuance of the finding of no significant impact, and the approval of a mining plan modification.
Completion of the EA, finding of no significant impact, and approval of revised mining plan modification have satisfied the court’s May 8, 2015 order.
From Colorado Senator Cory Gardner:
“I am pleased that the Department of the Interior met the Colorado Federal District Court’s deadline and reached a conclusion that allows for the Colowyo mine to keep its doors open,” said Gardner. “An economic engine for Northwest Colorado, the Colowyo mine supports more than 200 jobs, produces $165 million in economic activity annually, and provides affordable energy to not only the region, but neighboring states. Now that the DOI has met the court’s deadline, the hardworking Colowyo employees should be able to get back to work immediately.”
From Colorado Representative Scott Tipton:
“While we don’t see eye to eye with the Interior Department and Secretary Sally Jewell on many issues, their quick action to meet a short court-imposed deadline will ensure the Colowyo Mine remains operational and that 220 workers in Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties continue to receive a paycheck,” said Tipton. “It took hard work and long hours on the part of the employees at the Interior Department to complete the new study in such a short timeframe, and I want to thank them for their efforts to keep the mine running and save vital jobs in Northwest Colorado.”
From Colorado Senator Michael Bennet:
“pleased that the Department of Interior has completed a draft environmental assessment required by a court ruling to keep the Colowyo mine in operation, saving more than 200 jobs in Moffat County. By finishing the assessment before the court ordered deadline, OSM has ensured that the Colowyo mine will remain open, saving jobs and the economy in Northwest Colorado.”
“Local leaders in Northwest Colorado passionately and effectively made their cases to Secretary Jewell and the Administration,” Bennet said. “The mine is a key economic driver for Moffatt and Rio Blanco counties and now that the assessment is complete residents there know the jobs at the mine are safe.”
In May, following the court ruling, Bennet wrote to Jewell, urging her to complete the assessment, petition for an extension if necessary, and to use any and all tools at her disposal to help save the more than 200 mining jobs. He also set up a meeting in Washington for local leaders with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and other agencies and helped facilitate a meeting with Jewell and local officials in Colorado. Additionally, he joined Senator Gardner and Congressman Tipton on a letter to Jewell urging she provide assurances that the assessment would be complete on time.
From Lee A. Boughey – Sr. Manager, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc.:
“Colowyo Mine Plan Approved by U.S. Department of the Interior
– Federal government completes court ordered review within 120-day deadline
– New mine plan replaces challenged plan
– Environmental assessment finds no significant environmental impact from mining operations
The U.S. Department of the Interior has approved and signed a modified mine plan for Colowyo Mine, which was subject to a federal district court order requiring the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) to update its environmental review of the mine.
In addition to the new mining plan, on August 31, 2015, the OSM completed a new environmental assessment for the mine, resulting in a finding of no significant impact on the environment from mining operations.
The approval of the new mine plan completes the effort by OSM to comply with the court’s May 8, 2015, order to complete the environmental review within 120 days. OSM’s counsel has notified the court that it has completed the environmental review and approved a modified mining plan.
“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,” said Mike McInnes, chief executive officer of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which owns Colowyo Mine through its subsidiary, Colowyo Coal Company.
“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, from Secretary Jewell down, committed the resources and time necessary to complete this important work,” added McInnes.
Colowyo Coal Company believes the new mine plan allows the mine to continue to operate and the completion of the environmental assessment, finding of no significant impact and mine plan will satisfy the court, but it is uncertain how the court will proceed.
“The approval of the new plan should provide our employees and the residents of Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties with the confidence to move forward and focus on the future,” said Chris McCourt, Colowyo Mine’s manager.
Colowyo Coal Company is owned by Tri-State, which purchased the Colowyo Mine in 2011. Tri-State is a not-for-profit wholesale power supplier to 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts that serve 1.5 million members throughout 200,000 square-miles of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.”