The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Trapper Mining and WildEarth Guardians on Sept. 10 asked a federal judge, who had ruled on May 8 for WildEarth Guardians that OSMRE did an inadequate job with an environmental review of a new permit area for the Trapper coal mine, to approve a limit on Trapper’s mining while a new environmental analysis is done.
On May 8, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued an order finding that OSMRE violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it approved Trapper’s 2009 mine plan modification. Although the court issued this declaratory relief, it did not vacate Trapper’s 2009 mine plan modification on mootness grounds.
Trapper informed the court in a July 1 notice that counsel for Trapper, OSMRE, and WildEarth Guardians had agreed to confer in an effort to reach an agreement on a remedy, in light of Trapper’s circumstance, consistent with the court’s May 8 order.
OSMRE agrees to conduct a new NEPA analysis, consistent with the court’s May 8 order, for Trapper’s 2009 mine plan modification covering two federal leases. Keeping with the intent of NEPA, OSMRE’s NEPA analysis will be prospective and will analyze the reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts of currently proposed and future mining activities within federal coal leases C-079641 and C-07519, as well as the past, present, and reasonably foreseeable impacts of any other actions or activities as may be appropriate or required by NEPA.
Trapper, on its part, will facilitate an expeditious NEPA analysis by OSMRE. OSMRE will complete an environmental assessment, including all public participation components, on or before April 30, 2016. In the meantime, Trapper has agreed to abide by certain on-the-ground restrictions on its mining activities. Specifically, Trapper’s mining activities within the two federal leases will be restricted as follows:
- Mining activities will only occur on lands permitted, as of July 1, 2015, by the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety (CDRMS);
- Within the permitted area, mining will only occur on lands already classified as “disturbed”; and
- Within the “disturbed” area, no coal removal will take place east of a “Coal Removal Limit” line.
As of July 1, 2015, Trapper’s mining operations are authorized by CDRMS Permit Renewal-06 (RN-06) and OSMRE’s 2009 mining plan modification. RN-06 was issued by CDRMS for the five-year period 2013-2017. The Permit Revision-07 (PR-07) application was prepared and submitted primarily to increase the permit boundary to the east and to slightly modify the disturbed area in RN-06. PR-07 is still pending CDRMS approval. Trapper is currently authorized to continue operations under RN-06 without approval of PR-07.
This proposal will not apply to or have any effect on Trapper’s mining or reclamation activities on state, county, private, or other federal leases.
This proposal and the new NEPA analysis will not affect Trapper’s right to appeal the court’s May 8 order or any amended order and judgment. OSMRE will provide to the parties monthly written status reports to apprise the parties of its progress with complying with these obligations.
Trapper Mining on July 7 filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on the May 8 decision. Trapper was the second company to appeal U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson’s May 8 ruling that OSMRE failed to properly examine or notify the public of the environmental effects of expanding the Colowyo and Trapper mines, both located in Colorado. Colowyo Coal, a subsidiary of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, filed its notice of appeal with the appeals court on June 19.
Tri-State purchased the Colowyo mine in 2011 from international miner Rio Tinto. 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 receives its coal supply primarily from two sources: the adjacent Trapper mine, and the Colowyo operation, sited about 30 miles southwest of the station.