U.S. Forest Service moves toward permitting more coal mining in Colorado’s North Fork Valley

Roadless rule exemption at issue in federal permitting process


A U.S. Forest Service proposal to permit more coal mining in Colorado would unleash huge amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution.

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service wants to update a public lands rule that would re-open the door for new coal mining on about 20,000 acres in south-central Colorado’s North Fork Valley, near Paonia. The agency this week posted a federal register notice seeking comment on a proposal to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule.

The proposal comes about a year after a federal court set aside the exemption after finding that the Forest Service failed to disclose greenhouse gas emissions associated with potential mine operations and the combustion of coal from the area. Find the federal register notice and information on commenting here. Continue reading

Forest Service OKs Breck summer expansion plan


Summer is about to get busier on the slopes of the Tenmile Range.

Summer attractions expected to draw 150,000 new tourists

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service is giving Vail Resorts a green light for more development on the slopes of the Tenmile Range, at Breckenridge Ski Area.

In a final decision released this week, White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams approved a significant expansion of recreation infrastructure, including zip lines and canopy tours, as well as more off-highway vehicle tours and an expansion of the Peak 7 hut. Continue reading

Feds delay decisions on new Colorado River diversions

Instead, the water goes through this aqueduct to water bluegrass lawns on the Front Range.

New diversions from the Colorado River to the Front Range are still on hold pending further review. @bberwyn photo.

water quality, endangered species issues still unresolved

Staff Report

The complex permitting process for a pair of new Colorado water supply projects has been delayed yet again, as federal agencies continue to study the impacts of new diversions from the Colorado River and enlarged reservoirs on the Front Range.

Decisions for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project, and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project have been rescheduled for release in 2016, according to a Nov. 4 press release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Continue reading

Forest Service stalls on Wolf Creek land trade order


A federal court has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to release more documents related to a controversial land trade and development proposal at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Controversial swap would enable massive development project at Wolf Creek Pass

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service continues to delay the release of records related to a controversial land trade in southwestern Colorado.

Last week, a federal court granted the agency’s request for a 30-day extension to turn over letters, memos and other documents from a long-running review of the Wolf Creek land trade — a swap that would enable a massive resort development in the middle of an important wildlife area.

In September, U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel ruled that the Forest Service violated the Freedom of Information Act and ordered the agency to release the documents on the controversial land trade by Oct. 30. Conservation groups critical of the trade say the paper trail may show that the decision-making process was tainted by political influence. Continue reading

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper challenges State Attorney General over federal environmental rule lawsuits


Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says only he has the power to decide whether to sue the federal government over environmental regulations. @bberwyn photo.

Petition to Colorado Supreme Court seeks clarity 

By Bob Berwyn

In a petition to the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says the state’s attorney general has wasted taxpayer dollars and undermined the authority of the executive branch by joining a series of lawsuits against the federal government.

Specifically, Hickenlooper said Attorney General Cynthia Coffman didn’t have the authority to enmesh Colorado in lawsuits against federal fracking rules, federal clean water rules and the EPA’s Clean Power plan. Continue reading

Breckenridge voters approve new lift ticket tax

Morning alpenglow paints the summit of Breckenridge Ski Area.

Starting next season, some skiers and snowboarders will be paying an extra 4.5 percent on their lift tickets (season passes excluded) to help pay for needed transportation and parking infrastructure. @bberwyn photo.

New revenue to fund transportation improvements

Staff Report

The turnout wasn’t exactly overwhelming, but those Breckenridge voters who did bother to cast a ballot Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of a ballot measure  authorizing a 4.5 percent lift ticket tax.

The preliminary tally shows 917 votes in favor of ballot measure 2A, with just 185 no votes. The new tax is aimed at funding long-term funding for parking and transit solutions in the jam-packed tourist town. Continue reading

Report says Animas River spill could have been avoided

Hasty excavation without adequate technical info led to disastrous Gold King mine blowout in Colorado


Tainted abandoned mine drainage is common in the mountains of Colorado. Photo courtesy Bureau of Reclamation.

By Bob Berwyn

Federal and state environmental engineers, along with their contractors, misjudged conditions inside the Gold King Mine before they unleashed a toxic flood of water into Cement Creek down the Animas and into the Colorado in early August.

The technical details about the spill were released this week by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which did an independent review of the accident.  Most importantly, the workers underestimated the water level inside the mine. That error “resulted in development of a plan to open the mine in a manner that appeared to guard against blowout, but instead led directly to the failure,” the Bureau of Reclamation wrote in the report. Continue reading


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