Trapper Mine may receive additional assessment
July 9, 2015
Craig — Originally spared in Judge R. Brooke Jackson's ruling, Trapper Mine may join Colowyo Mine in conducting a corrective environmental analysis if it wants to keep mining federal coal.
On July 1, Trapper Mining, Inc. filed a notice of correction statement with the district court withdrawing its argument for mootness in a claim brought by WildEarth Guardians.
Jackson ruled in favor of the Guardians in May, stating the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement failed to facilitate adequate public comment and take into account the indirect impacts of mining coal when it recommended approval of mining plans at Trapper and Colowyo.
Before the ruling, both mines contested that Guardians' arguments were irrelevant because the coal in question had already been mined. In the case of Trapper Mine, Jackson agreed and did not enter an order for a new environmental assessment like the one at Colowyo.
"The federal coal covered by the revision has been mined," he wrote in his ruling.
However, attorneys for Trapper have come to realize that the OSMRE plan at issue covers additional federal coal.
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"It became understood that the footprint of the state and federal approvals were different," said Paul Seby, attorney for Trapper.
In 2009, the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety approved a permit revision on two of Trapper's federal coal leases. The permit revisions anticipated mining of approximately 8.1 million tons of federal coal on 312 acres.
At the same time, OMSRE determined that the Trapper permit revisions necessitated a mining plan modification and in 2009 it was approved as well.
Though it is true that the mining done under the permit revision is 96 percent complete, Jackson's ruling applies to all of the federal coal left under the 2009 mine plan — not just the 312 acres.
According to a statement from Trapper, "To ensure compliance in current and future permitting efforts, Trapper is working proactively with OSM, Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, and WildEarth Guardians to explore a reasonable course for conducting any needed remedial NEPA analysis, consistent with the May 8 order."
Seby said Trapper will be working with all the invested parties to seek a reasonable accommodation that does not threaten the mine's operations while the remedial NEPA work is performed. A status report will be provided to the court on Wednesday.
"It's been a very complex circumstance, but at the end of the day this is about keeping the mine operating," he said.
Located in Moffat County, Trapper Mine employs 185 people and has provided coal to Craig Station in Northwest Colorado since 1977.
Trapper's corrective disclosure with the court does not affect their appeal of Jackson's ruling.