About the Project
OSMRE is responsible for reviewing plans to conduct coal mining and reclamation operations on lands containing leased Federal coal. Pursuant to 30 CFR 746, OSMRE must prepare and submit to the Secretary of the Interior a decision document recommending approval, disapproval or approving with condition(s) of the proposed mining plan modification.
In response to the May 8, 2015, WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Office of Surface Mining et al., Case 1:13-cv-00518-RBJ (D. Colo. 2015), OSMRE has completed an Environmental Assessment (EA), which replaces the 2007 OSMRE supplemental EA for Federal Coal Leases C-0123476, C-29226, & C-29226. The 2007 supplemental EA was used in OSMRE’s 2007 mining plan decision document for the Secretary of the Interior’s approval of mining operations proposed in permit revision two (PR2). The Colorado Department of Reclamation and Mining Safety (CDRMS) approved PR2 on June 8, 2007, and the Secretary of the Interior approved the mining plan decision document on June 15, 2007. This new EA titled: Colowyo Coal Mine, South Taylor/Lower Wilson Permit Expansion Area Project, Federal Mining Plan Modification Environmental Assessment, analyzes the potential environmental effects that may result from approval of the mining plan modification for Federal Leases COC-29225, and COC-29226. Federal Lease C-0123476 is not analyzed in this current EA because all development that was anticipated to occur in that lease did not occur, is not planned to occur, and will not occur until all necessary documents are provided to CDRMS and OSMRE.
Colowyo Coal Company L.P., owned by Western Fuels-Colorado, LLC, a subsidiary of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, operates the Colowyo Coal Mine (Colowyo) surface coal mine. The mine is located approximately 26 miles southwest of Craig, Colorado, and 22 miles north-northeast of Meeker, Colorado, west of Colorado Highway 13 in southwest Moffat and northern Rio Blanco Counties, Colorado.
OSMRE concluded that there is one reasonable alternative other than the Proposed Action (Alternative A) and the No Action alternative that would meet the agency’s purpose and need. The Proposed Action alternative reflects what Colowyo originally proposed, in PR2, to CDRMS in 2006 for the South Taylor/Lower Wilson Permit Expansion Area. This alternative allowed for 43 million tons of coal to be mined at a maximum rate of up to 6 million tons per year (mtpy), disturbing up to 1,562 acres of surface land within the permit area, and conducting mining operations from 2008 through 2017. Alternative B reflects the surface disturbance and mining operations that have actually occurred since 2007, and the operations remaining to occur in the South Taylor/Lower Wilson Permit Expansion Area until 2019. This alternative allows for mining at a maximum rate of 5 mtpy from 2008 through 2015 and then mining at a maximum rate of 4 mtpy from 2015 through 2019. Colowyo has mined approximately 10 million tons of coal from the South Taylor/Lower Wilson Permit Expansion Area and approximately 13 million tons remain to be mined. The total disturbance area for this alternative will be 809 acres of previously undisturbed land within the permit area.