Plan could unleash 36.6 billion tons of greenhouse gases
The public will have a chance to weigh in on a U.S. Forest Service proposal to expand coal-mining on public lands in south-central Colorado at two public hearings, Dec. 7 in Paonia and Dec. 9 in Denver.
At issue is a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Colorado Roadless Rule released November 20. The study addresses a recent court ruling that blocked the coal mining expansion in the North Fork Valley, near Paonia, pending more analysis and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions associated extracting and burning the coal.In the new study, the Forest Service says that the coal mining operation would unleash between 1.3 million and 6.6 million tons of greenhouse gases, depending on the level of mining activity. Burning the coal would result in between 12.3 million to 36.6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate activists opposed to more fossil fuel extraction on public lands sayt the proposal would undermine President Barack Obama’s intentions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Forest Service said the proposal represents an effort to balance roadless area conservation with the State of Colorado’s interest in maintaining coal production, deemed economically important to the region.
The Colorado Roadless Rule included an exception for North Fork coal mining. The Forest Service prepared the new study to address specific environmental disclosure deficiencies identified by the District Court of Colorado. In addition, the Department of Agriculture is proposing to correct certain Colorado Roadless Areas boundaries associated with the North Fork Coal Mining Area based on updated information.
The SDEIS proposes to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule and details the environmental, social and economic impacts of three alternatives:
- Alternative A is the No Action Alternative, and would continue the current management under the Colorado Roadless Rule without a North Fork Coal Mining Area exception.
- Alternative B (proposed action) would reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception and apply it to 19,700 acres of Colorado Roadless Areas, allowing temporary road construction for coal mining related activities.
- Alternative C would reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception and apply it to 12,600 acres of Colorado Roadless Areas, allowing temporary road construction for coal mining related activities.
The public is encouraged to participate in an open house, review and comment on the SDEIS. The SDEIS is available for review and comment online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/coroadlessrule. The 45-day comment period ends on January 4, 2016.
Meeting details and logistics:
- Paonia, Colorado: Monday, December 7, 2015, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Paonia Town Hall, 214 Grand Avenue, Paonia, CO 81428
- Denver, Colorado: Wednesday, December 9, 2015, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Regional Office, 740 Simms St., Golden, CO 80401.
- Participants who attend the open house in Denver are required to present a government issued ID. Federal law requires that the public, employees and contractors show proper identification to uniformed personnel before accessing Federal facilities.
If you have questions concerning special needs or to request a sign language interpreter for the open houses, contact Lawrence Lujan at (303) 815-9902, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.