Attorney General Coffman visits Craig; Trapper public comment begins
Interest in Northwest Colorado’s coal industry has far from waned.
On Thursday, the beginning of the public comment period on the environmental assessment for Trapper Mine coincided with a visit to the area by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.
The Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation kicked off the 30-day comment period with a well-attended public outreach meeting at Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion. In addition to Craig residents, local government and mine employees, Coffman also made an appearance at the meeting.
The open-house style meeting was held from 4 to 8 p.m. and included displays and handouts explaining the situation at Trapper Mine in the wake of a federal court ruling. Attendees also had the opportunity for one-on-one conversation with representatives of OSMRE and Trapper.
Bob Postle, program support division manager for OSMRE’s Western Region, said the outreach session is part of an effort to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.
Originally spared in Judge R. Brooke Jackson’s May ruling that ordered a new assessment at Colowyo Mine, Trapper rescinded its argument for mootness in July and has reached an agreement to complete a new assessment by April 30.
Jackson found OSMRE had not complied with NEPA in recommending mining plan approvals at the two mines, leading to a court order for remedial environmental assessments.
An important part of completing the assessment is informing the community so individuals can provided substantive feedback, Postle said.
“We appreciate the community’s participation, we’re happy to be here and we’re working diligently to meet the April 30 deadline and comply with the requirements of NEPA,” he said.
Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe said the community should stay diligent and not be complacent after the successful completion of Colowyo’s assessment.
“Because we did it once doesn’t mean it’s a done deal,” he said.
The waves of participants at the outreach session showed that Moffat County is not slacking in its support of the mine, which employs just under 200 people and contributes significantly to the county.
In 2014, Trapper paid more than $22 million in wages and benefits to its employees, approximately $10 million in local, state and federal taxes and royalties, and nearly $30 million in products and services, mostly in the local community.
Colowyo employee Dave Malvitz was in attendance Thursday to back Trapper because his wife and son work there, he said.
“They supported us, so now we’re supporting them,” he said. “We’re all one big happy family.”
OSMRE will accept comments until Nov. 12. To learn how to submit your comment visit http://www.wrcc.osmre.gov/initiatives/trapperMine.shtm
A visit from the attorney general
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s tour of Northwest Colorado began with a stop at Steamboat High School to speak with students as a part of her office’s effort to increase community engagement.
The outreach efforts focus on education with the goal of protecting consumers and preventing crime, Coffman said.
One topic brought up by the students was mental health and stress caused by school. Marijuana was also discussed.
“They didn’t think there was enough education and messaging to teens about the downsides of using marijuana and the impact it can have on the brain,” she said.
Next, Coffman headed to Craig for a tour of Craig Station, the second largest coal-fired power plant in Colorado.
Coffman said she was familiar with the plant from her time at the Department of Public Health and Environment and had been curious to see how it operated.
“I was impressed at how much attention is paid to keeping up with environmental standards and exceeding them,” she said.
Last year, 24 percent of the energy delivered by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the 44-member electric cooperative responsible for operating Craig Station, was from renewable resources. Tri-State’s renewable power supply will grow by another 281 megawatts with the completion of four wind and solar projects by 2017.
Coffman also took the time to discuss her legal challenge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan with the Craig Daily Press.
“The lawsuit is about the use of federal regulatory power in a way and in a scope that is, from our perspective, unprecedented and we think encroaches on the states’ ability to determine its own destiny,” she said.
Colorado and Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office can continue to pursue the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, said Coffman, but the use of federal regulatory powers in this instance needs to be addressed.
On Monday, Hickenlooper announced he would challenge Coffman’s involvement in the 24-state challenge of the plan by seeking an opinion from the Colorado Supreme Court on the legality of her actions.
Defending her participation in the multistate, bipartisan legal challenge, Coffman said the attorney general is an independently elected constitutional officer charged with representing the state and the people.
“I think his belief is that he has the power as the governor of the state to decided if and when the state of Colorado is going to be part of a lawsuit and the attorney general, in spite of history and precedent, can’t make that decision independent of the governor,” she said.
While in Craig, Coffman also paid a visit to the Boys & Girls Club, met with local government and dropped in at OSMRE’s public outreach meeting for Trapper Mine.
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Engineering work to further assess needed upgrades at wastewater treatment plants in Milner and Phippsburg will cost at least $125,000, though where the money will come from hasn’t been decided yet.