DENVER (AP) — Another northwestern Colorado coal mine is set to get a new environmental review after environmentalists challenged its permit.
A proposed deal between the Trapper mine, environmentalists and regulators filed in federal court Thursday calls for a review to be performed by April 30. The mine would be able to continue to operate on land where mining is already underway and provide monthly status updates starting next month.
The proposal, subject to the court's approval, came nearly a week after the Interior Department agreed to allow mining to continue at the nearby Colowyo mine after a court-ordered environmental review found its climate change impacts were insignificant.
WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit challenging the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement approval of mining projects at the Colowyo mine in 2007 and the Trapper mine in 2009 because it said the regulators did not provide enough public notice of the work and did not take a serious look at the environmental impacts of the mine, including how the mined coal would eventually contribute to global warming.
U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson agreed, but in his May ruling he only ordered a new review for the Colowyo mine, which employs 220 workers, threatening to revoke its permit unless the work was done by Sept. 6. He said the original approval for Trapper was similarly flawed but did not order a new review because its lawyers originally said most of the coal at issue had already been mined.
In July, however, the lawyers notified the court that they were wrong and more coal was still left to be mined because of permit changes. That led to negotiations between WildEarth Guardians, the mine, which employs 180 people, and the Office of Surface Mining on the proposed solution submitted to Jackson for his approval.
"We are hopeful the court will promptly approve this proposal and allow OSM to move forward to complete its enhanced environmental review," Jim Mattern, president and general manager of Trapper Mining Inc., said in a statement.
Regulators have filed notice of last week's decision on the Colowyo mine but it's not clear whether Jackson must take any other action on it.
WildEarth Guardians has also sued to challenge the San Juan coal mine in New Mexico and the Spring Creek mine near the Montana-Wyoming border in the coal-rich Powder River Basin.