Routt County commissioners approved Tuesday an increase in the amount of coal Twentymile Coal Co. can haul by truck, overruling a March 4 decision by the Routt County Planning Commission.
County commissioners approved the increase saying the coal hauls are important to the county's economy and would not pose significant health and safety threats.
"Part of the business of Routt County is providing coal, and that's one of the natural resources we have," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said. "I think it provides a substantial amount of economic benefit to Routt County."
Monger called the Planning Commission recommended rejection of the increase a "wake-up call" to parties involved with the coal hauls. The Planning Commission's rejection, Monger said, reminded the coal and trucking companies that all efforts should be made to keep the hauls safe and prevent complaints.
With the county's approval, Twentymile can haul 360,000 tons of coal until Dec. 31, 2008, an increase from the 200,000 tons it was permitted to haul until the end of 2006. The coal trucks will travel on 14 miles of C.R. 27 between Twentymile and U.S. Highway 40.
The current use equals 22 truckloads of coal a day, while the additional tons would contribute an extra 18 loads for a total of 40. Hauling is allowed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except on school days when trucks cannot travel between 7 and 8 a.m. or 4 and 5 p.m.
When six of eight planning commissioners recommended the request be denied, they said the cumulative effects of coal hauls on the road were too high and posed threats to public health and safety, while also burdening law enforcement and creating more traffic. Some said hauls taking coal to Wyoming using truckers from Moffat County and Fort Collins as well as local truckers meant that Routt County would not receive much economic benefit.
County commissioners Monger and Dan Ellison disagreed with those points, citing the efforts the coal company has taken to provide safe service and the importance of the coal companies in local and regional economies.
Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak did not participate in the hearing.
County commissioners added provisions to their approval that all trucks be covered and truck pull-offs be maintained along C.R. 27.
Mike Berdine of Twentymile Coal told county commissioners that Twentymile representatives had met with representatives from the Hayden Station power plant, the Seneca Mine and the three trucking companies involved with hauling the coal to discuss how to address complaints. One outcome of that meeting, he said, was that all complaints will be forwarded to and resolved by a Twentymile official.