Trapper’s court-ordered environmental assessment approved
April 30, 2016
The U.S. Department of the Interior approved a court-ordered environmental assessment of operations at Trapper Mine on Friday, allowing it to continue mining federal coal.
The new assessment, which was the result of a successful legal challenge to the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation's 2009 mining plan approval for Trapper, allows the mine to access 19.1 million tons of federal coal.
"The Department of Interior's assessment confirmed that Trapper has no significant impact on air or water quality. And once reclamation is complete, Trapper has virtually no lasting effect on the surface area in and around the mine — and in many cases actually improves the habitat for wildlife," said Jim Mattern, Trapper Mining's president and general manager.
Moffat County Commissioners John Kinkaid and Chuck Grobe were both happy to hear the news and clear one more hurdle in maintaining an persevering an industry that is integral to the regional economy.
"It's a good day for Moffat County," said Kinkaid on Friday, when the assessment was signed.
In May, a federal judge ruled on a complaint brought by the environmental advocacy group Wild Earth Guardians. In his decision, Judge R. Brooke Jackson stated that OSMRE 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 Mine.
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OSMRE was given 120 days to complete a new environmental analysis for Colowyo — a process that was successfully completed Sept. 2, satisfying the judges order and allowing the mine to remain open.
Trapper Mine was spared in Jackson's May ruling, unlike Colowyo Mine, under the pretense that the coal in question had already been mined.
However, attorneys for Trapper realized the OSMRE plan at issue covers additional federal coal and filed a notice of correction statement with the district court withdrawing its argument for mootness on July 1.
Negations between Guardians, OSMRE and Trapper resulted in an agreement that a new assessment would be completed by April 30 – which has now been accomplished and signed by Assistant Secretary of the Interior Janice Schneider.
"The approval allows the mine permit holder, Trapper Mining Inc., to continue mining and produce up to 2.6 million tons of coal per year from two federal coal leases issued in 1958 and 1962 that cover about 2,423 acres of Federal mineral estate and contain about 19 million tons of recoverable coal," according to a press release from OMSRE.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, released a statement supporting the approval.
"The Trapper Mine is one of northwest Colorado's major economic drivers and employers, and we have been advocating on behalf of local communities for months to ensure that this assessment was done in a timely manner," he said. "Now that it's completed the mine's operations can continue."