RBC I U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) urged Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on Thursday to instruct the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to take action to prevent the impending closure of the Colowyo mine and the loss of hundreds of jobs in Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, Colo.
“We write to urge you to take all necessary and appropriate action to ensure the continued operation of the Colowyo Coal Mine, which is a critical component of northwest Colorado’s regional economy and has responsibly operated in the eight years since the mine plan approval was issued by your office,” Tipton and Gardner wrote. “Coal produced by this mine, located in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, is then used to generate power at the Craig station and is responsible for employing more than 200 people with a payroll of around $20 million
Requested actions include urgently deploying sufficient personnel with the resources and expertise to complete the supplemental NEPA work within the 120-day window provided by the District Court.”
Three weeks ago, Judge R. Brooke Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Colorado issued an order determining that in 2007 the OSM failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it issued a mine plan approval for the Colowyo Coal Mine.
The court has now given the OSM a narrow 120-day window to prepare a new analysis, and stated that it would effectively shut down the mine should the deadline not be met.
“In addition, we strongly urge OSM to evaluate the propriety of an appeal; without remarking on the reasoning of the court contained within the decision itself, the result nonetheless creates adverse precedent with other suits pending, which would harm not only Colowyo and the town of Craig, but potentially numerous other mining operations and towns in other states as well,”
Tipton and Gardner wrote. “The federal government must vigorously defend the legality of its permitting actions, and leave policy debates over the role of coal to the legislative and rule-making proceedings where those debates belong.”