Dec 12, 2017
Feds OK West Elk coal lease expansion
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The U.S. Forest Service has consented to two federal coal lease expansions that would let Arch Coal mine beneath about 1,700 acres in the Sunset Roadless Area in the upper North Fork Valley.
The decision, released Monday, opens the door for the Bureau of Land Management to decide whether to modify the leases. The BLM also is evaluating whether to permit exploration on the leases if they are issued. The exploration would involve drilling into underground coal reserves to determine if mineable quantities exist.
Long-term, the lease authorizations could mean Arch Coal would build roads and drill wells to vent potentially explosive methane it would encounter in the underground expansion of its West Elk Mine near Somerset.
Scott Armentrout, supervisor of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, signed the record of decision on the leases.
The expansion has support from entities including Delta County because of the importance of coal jobs to the North Fork economy.
...In 2014 a federal judge vacated the lease authorizations and the underlying North Fork Valley coal mining exemption to Colorado's national forest roadless rule because they lacked adequate environmental analysis. The Forest Service since has conducted additional analysis and reinstated the Colorado rule, and the agency has done more analysis on the leases based on the court order. Armentrout wrote in his decision that he has considered the order and resulting further analysis "with particular attention to greenhouse gas emissions, social cost of carbon (emissions), socioeconomics, and recreation. The additional analysis and clarifications did not compel me to make a decision dissimilar to my predecessor."
He also said that considering the 100-year history "and importance to custom and culture of coal mining in the North Fork area," the scope and scale of the Forest Service decision are quite small and within precedent.
...Armentrout wrote in his decision that it doesn't preclude the future inclusion of methane mitigation measures including flaring.
http://www.coloradomining.org/news/3783 ... ansion.htm