Tri-State’s Colowyo Coal moves for stay of adverse federal court ruling

Colowyo Coal, a subsidiary of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, has filed a motion for a stay pending appeal of a federal court’s May 8 ruling against the U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in a lawsuit challenging the mining permits issued for the Colowyo surface mine.

Tri-State said in a May 29 statement that the request for a stay asks for operations at the mine to continue until the appeals process is concluded. The motion for a stay is based on Colowyo’s belief the court’s decision against OSM was in error and includes several legal issues. Colowyo believes a stay is warranted given the likelihood of a successful appeal and the irreparable harm that will occur to Colowyo, its employees and northwest Colorado’s communities if mining operations are ceased.

Tr-State said the ruling out of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado puts more than 200 mine employees and their families at risk and threatens the mine’s more than $200 million annual impact to the regional economy. While Colowyo appeals the ruling, Tri-State encourages OSM and the Department of the Interior to continue to aggressively pursue all options to allow the mine to continue to operate, including continuing to comply with the judge’s order to conduct an environmental analysis of the Colowyo mine plan. Colowyo will continue to support OSM during the development of the environmental assessment, but has also encouraged the agency to file its own appeal.

WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit against the OSM was not based on a violation of any air or water quality laws or regulations, Tri-State said. The Colowyo mine has responsibly operated its mining and reclamation activities since the mine plan was approved under the federal review process, and the mine remains in compliance with all state and federal requirements, it added.

The issues raised in the lawsuit are related to whether OSM completed appropriate public notification and analysis required during a review of the mine plan issued in 2007. At no time during the case did WildEarth Guardians argue that the mine should be designed or operated any differently than it operates today, Tri-State said.

Colowyo Coal is a subsidiary of Tri-State, which purchased the mine in 2011 from international miner Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto around that time spun off its other U.S. coal mines under Cloud Peak Energy (NYSE: CLD). Tri-State is the not-for-profit wholesale power supplier to 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts that serve 1.5 million consumers throughout 200,000 square-miles of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Colowyo supplies the 1,303-MW Craig Station, which is a key baseload resource providing Tri-State with a total of 653 MW of generation. The plant is operated by Tri-State. Craig Station Units 1 and 2 make up the Yampa Project, owned by Tri-State and four other regional utilities. Tri-State is the sole owner of Unit 3. Craig Station receives its coal supply primarily from two sources: the adjacent Trapper mine, and the Colowyo operation, sited about 30 miles southwest of the station.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.