The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) on Jan. 25 released for comment, which is being taken until Feb. 19, a draft environmental assessment and unsigned Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) that approves the contents of the EA, related to a court-ordered review of mining area for the Trapper coal strip mine in Colorado.
The EA has been prepared by the OSMRE, Western Region, with assistance from cooperating agencies including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the state of Colorado. The EA describes the environmental impacts that are anticipated to result from the current and future mining operations at the Trapper mine from July 1, 2015, through the life of the mine within the portions of Federal Coal Leases C-07519 and C-079641 that lie within the approved Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) permit area.
The Trapper mine is located approximately 6 miles south of the City of Craig in Moffat County, Colorado, east of Colorado State Highway 13. It is a main coal supplier to the nearby Craig Generating Station. Craig Station is a coal-powered facility capable of producing up to 1,264 MW. Trapper Mining is jointly owned by parties including the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, Platte River Power Authority, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and PacifiCorp. The Trapper mine produces approximately 2.3 million tons per year (mtpy) and can produce a maximum of 2.6 mtpy based on limitations currently in place under its air permit.
The Trapper mine produces coal from the L Pit located on Federal Coal Lease C-079641. Future mining also is proposed in the N Pit located partially within Federal Coal Lease C-07519. Coal is mined using dragline, truck and shovel, and highwall mining methods.
On May 8, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued an order related to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance regarding the mining plan approval document signed by regulators for the Trapper mine in 2009. The order, in the case WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, said that OSMRE failed to properly notify the public about any NEPA review for this coal area permitting, and failed to take a “hard look” at environmental impacts. This new draft EA is designed to address that deficiency.
Pursuant to the District Court-approved remedy, OSMRE agreed to complete this EA, including all public participation components, on or before April 30, 2016. As part of a Joint Proposed Remedy, Trapper Mining agreed to on-the-ground restrictions for mining activities on Federal Coal Leases C-07519 and C-079641 during the preparation of this EA, including: limiting mining activities to lands permitted by the state as of July 1, 2015; limiting disturbance to lands already classified as disturbed based on the current disturbance limit; and limiting coal removal to areas west of a line designated as the Coal Removal Limit. Mining up to the Coal Removal Limit allows Trapper Mining to mine an additional approximately four million tons after July 1, 2015.
The District Court order, by the way, is on appeal to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.