Colowyo assessment does not need second approval from judge |

Colowyo assessment does not need second approval from judge

Patrick Kelly
In May
file photo

In May, federal district Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled that mining plans at Colowyo Coal Mine did not meet requirements set out in the National Environmental Policy Act — mainly looking at the indirect impacts of mining coal — and ordered the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to complete a new environmental assessment within 120 days. On Sept 4., two days ahead of deadline, the Department of the Interior announced that it had approved OSMRE’s assessment.
file photo

On Sept. 4 the U.S. Department of Interior signed off on the new mining plan for Colowyo Coal Mine but there was still confusion on whether or not it would go back to court for Judge R. Brooke Jackson’s approval.

In short, it will not — unless the plaintiff, WildEarth Guardians, takes the new environmental assessment back to court by amending its original claim or filing a new one, said Professor Mark Squillace, director of the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado Boulder.

In that situation, it would be the beginning of a new round of litigation, he said.

“It certainly would be a different animal from what’s already transpired. It would have to be based upon the inadequacy of the documents that have now been filed,” Squillace said.

Squillace explained that by completing the new environmental assessment within the 120 days given by the court, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement had satisfied the judge’s May order.

“That should be the end of the story,” he said.

Any further proceedings on the issue would have to be initiated by the plaintiff, WildEarth Guardians.

“They would have to basically claim that whatever OSM did was not adequate, that it was flawed in some fashion,” Squillace said.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association owns Colowyo, and the company’s spokesperson Lee Boughey wrote in an email that Tri-State is “confident the federal government has met the requirements of the judge’s order and that mining operations can continue.”

Reach Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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