Assistant Secretary of the Interior visits Moffat, Routt counties

Assistant Secretary of the Interior visits Moffat, Routt counties

Craig Daily Press

Janice Schneider, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management, is in Northwest Colorado to visit two coal mines.

On Tuesday, she took a tour of Peabody Energy’s Twentymile Mine in Routt County, and today, she will visit Trapper Mine in Moffat County.

“We’re really excited that we have an opportunity to show her our operation, meet some of our employees and see firsthand our dedication to environmental stewardship and community involvement,” Trapper Mine Manager Jim Mattern said.

Trapper is still undergoing a court-ordered redo of an environmental assessment on part of its federal coal leases. The assessment has been completed on deadline, and it is Schneider’s responsibility to approve or deny mining operations.

As the Clean Power Plan and lawsuits brought by environmental advocacy groups create concerns over the future of coal — a pivotal part of the regional economy — members of state and local government and representatives of the energy industry expressed their gratitude for the visit.

“Even back in Washington, people know where Northwest Colorado is now,” Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid said.

Kinkaid said the community must remain vigilant in its defense of coal. However, he added that he thinks U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s visit to Glenwood in the midst of the Colowyo assessment last summer and the visit from Schneider are good signs.

“I hope she has a special place in her heart for Moffat County,” Kinkaid said.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, said in a statement that Kinkaid was an important part of getting federal regulators to visit Northwest Colorado.

“As part of our efforts to urge the Department of Interior to complete the environmental assessment before the deadline, we recommended Secretary Schneider visit Trapper mine personally,” he said. “It gives her the opportunity to see the site first-hand, and it will help give her a greater appreciation of its significance to the community and economy.”

Both Trapper and Twentymile were more than happy to host Schneider and discuss the importance of coal to the regional economy.

“We are proud to showcase our Twentymile operation, which benefits American families by safely producing coal to help keep energy costs affordable,” Peabody spokeswoman Beth Sutton said in an email. “Our Twentymile Mine creates 300 skilled jobs and last year injected nearly $500 million into the regional economy in direct and indirect economic benefits.”

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said considering the economic importance of the mines, he appreciates the attention from the federal government.

“I just think it’s great that they get the chance to come out and do a field trip — see what the boots on the ground look like.” he said.

On March 15, Peabody — the largest coal producer in the United States — delayed paying $71.1 million in debt payments, fueling speculation that it is headed toward bankruptcy.

And though the United States Supreme Court granted a stay in a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Clean Power Plan, Colorado has been moving forward with implementation goals.

The Clean Power Plan sets standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

States will be responsible for creating their own plans to meet the requirements and have the option of working with other states by trading in an emission-credit market.

Two options are set for evaluating emissions — rate-based and mass-based.

A rate-based plan looks at pounds of carbon dioxide produced per megawatt hour, while mass-based considers overall CO2 emissions.

In 2012, Colorado produced 1,973 pounds of CO2 for every megawatt hour generated, meaning it will have to achieve a 40 percent reduction to meet the 2030 goal of 1,174 pounds per megawatt hour.

For a mass-based plan, Colorado would seek to reduce total emissions by 28 percent, reducing to 29.9 million short tons of CO2 in 2030 from 2012’s 41.7 million short tons.

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