The PJ Tatler

Colorado Senator: 'Assault' on Mine Could Spell 'Economic Catastrophe'

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) warned today that the federal government could devastate a local community and raise energy prices with an “assault” on a mine in his state.

The Colowyo Mine, in Colorado’s northwestern Moffat County, was targeted in a 2013 lawsuit by environmental group WildEarth Guardians, which charged that the Office of Surface Mining failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it approved the mine plan in 2007.

Last month, a federal court ruled that the Interior Department has 120 days to conduct appropriate environmental reviews and act accordingly or the coal mine would shut down. “We can’t mine our way to a safe climate,” Jeremy Nichols, director of WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program, said after the ruling. “This ruling is an opportunity for the Secretary of the Interior to ensure our nation is on track to combat climate change, reduce carbon, and open the door for clean energy.”

In a letter later in May, Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell 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.”

“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,” they wrote. “Colowyo Coal Mine is a significant contributor to both of the counties’ economies. The adverse effects of shutting down this mine go beyond the jobs at the mine that would be lost.  We surely do not need to impress upon your office the potentially devastating impact of reducing operations at two of the counties’ largest employers as well as one of the largest electricity providers in the western half of the state.”

With similar lawsuits pending, Gardner and Tipton warned of the potentially devastating effect on mining operations in other towns as well. “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 rulemaking proceedings where those debates belong.”

The mine also provides energy to neighboring state through a cooperative.

“For a community that’s the size of the town I live in, three thousand people or so, to lose two hundred twenty jobs would be economic catastrophe,” Gardner said on the Senate floor today.