Colowyo calls timeout as eco lawsuit threatens coal mine

Coal nuggets

Millions of tons of coal a year and more than 200 jobs are at stake in a classic tale of climate-change concerns vs. big-coal profits unfolding at one of Colorado’s largest mines.

The Colowyo mine outside Meeker may be closed after a successful lawsuit from the environmental group WildEarth Guardians forced the federal government to reissue permits for the mine because the Office of Surface Mining initially failed to take into account the environmental impact of the operations and public comment on the project.

If the government fails to complete the permitting process within 120 days, the mine will be shuttered. The clock started during the first week of May.

Colowyo has now asked the court to let the company continue mining even if the feds don’t complete the re-permitting on deadline.

Colowyo mine
The ColoWyo mine from space. Via Google Maps.


“Colowyo believes a stay is warranted given the likelihood of a successful appeal and the irreparable harm that will occur to Colowyo Mine, its employees and northwest Colorado’s communities if mining operations are ceased,” wrote Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey, in a release.

Boughey added that shutting the mine would have a $200 million impact on the surrounding community.

The feds have not indicated whether they will appeal the ruling, which will otherwise require the Department of the Interior to routinely weigh climate impacts when approving mining on federal land.

Christopher Holmes, the spokesman for the Office of Surface Mining, said that they’ve started work on a redo of the environmental assessment and plan to have it completed within the 120-day timeline. He added that the office is currently open to public comment regarding the mine issue and will hold a public meeting about it on June 10th.

Jeremy Nichols at WildEarth said he doesn’t expect the feds — specifically the Departmetn of Justice — to appeal the ruling.

“If the feds appeal the ruling because they don’t think they should have to take into account coal-burning effects when they approve mining, I’d be blown away,” said Nichols. “For this administration to deliberately act against climate change and then appeal a ruling that says they have to consider climate change would be beyond hypocritical.”

Nichols added that he thinks Colowyo’s request for a time-out says more about them than about the lawsuit.

“They just don’t think the federal government should take into account coal-burning impact when they approve mines,” said Nichols. “It’s wrong and a dangerous position to have in this day and age.”


Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall, Creative Commons, Flickr.



  1. Millions of tons of coal at stake?
    How about 4 times that many millions of tons of CO2 in the atmosphere, many new cases of asthma and bronchitis, and more polluted ground water.
    I’m sorry 200 hard working people will have to find new jobs, but I want to keep breathing and I want to keep having a planet to live on, and that affects a lot more than 200 workers.

  2. The activists hardly need to make a living probably. They have no regard for the here and now, but pine away for some ideal in the distant future instead. This is called a fraud and misdirection. Coal – energy production- is anathema to the underlying anti capitalist drum beat. It is a shame that a few activists can shame otherwise intelligent people to miss the point? Two hundred LIVES, of HUMAN BEINGS, are being destroyed in the REAL WORLD over a Trojan Horse called environmentalism. Using ‘shame’ is a fascist- sophist- game. Quit playing the game for the sake of those who presume the right to make a living and have no time to ‘change the world.’

  3. Ed – your sentiments are not shared by those who must rely on that energy and those numbers of living human beings far outweigh the obvious half truths and out right lies that the anti capitalists have painted for the courts. Now Ed, it seems that you are breathing fine, and it is likely that you have sufficient electricity too. I’m glad you have enough cash to keep carrying the water. Your, “I’m sorry that 200 people will lose there job,” fails to include the additional number of families who will lose homes, businesses, land, and their roots. It is called a multiplier effect, and you’ve avoided mentioning that the larger picture includes a judicial court purposely impoverishing rural communities across America. So, 200 here and there accumulates Ed, silently and abstractly, so your boiler plate language hides the fact that anti capitalist environmentalists are killing much larger numbers of American jobs than they’ll admit. None of them care that it is leading to massive poverty in far more places than what this little community represents, and that presumably leads to far worse conditions than whatever strained -boiler plate- misguided concern about carbon dioxide might be. This was just to let you know that the hicks are not going to sit around and let such comments be unchallenged or unlinked from whole picture any longer.

  4. Anyone who knows anything about science can tell you Co2 is not a pollutant. By contrast it is the staff of life and necessary to every living thing. Co2 in the atmosphere today is near the minimum level to sustain healthy plants and animals. There is about 380 ppm currently in our air. Co2 cannot cause asthma or any other respiratory tract malaise. The average for the last 600 million years is 1000-2000 ppm. And global warming is primarily a function of activity on the sun. Please people educate yourselves.

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