Tipton: Stop foot-dragging on coal study

The Office of Management and Budget’s involvement in an environmental study of the North Fork coal area is creating uncertainty, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said in a letter to the agency head.

The environmental study, which was to be completed this fall, was delayed at the request of the agency, which is part of the executive office of the president.

The OMB said the delay was needed to study the “novel policy purposes” of the agreement under which the U.S. Forest Service was considering allowing coal mining beneath roadless areas in the North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River.

The delay, Tipton wrote to OMB head Shaun Donovan, seemed incongruous because the agency had raised no questions when the agreement was reached six years previously.

“Delaying the implementation of this rule creates continued economic uncertainty for communities in Delta and Gunnison counties whose livelihoods depend on the ability to plan for the responsible extraction of natural resources,” Tipton wrote.

Tipton discussed the matter with Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell, but Donovan’s staff rejected requests for a meeting with Donovan, Tipton wrote.

“Director Donovan, I respectfully request no further delay” in the study “and ask that OMB expedite its review in order to restore some needed certainty for the hardworking people of Gunnison and Delta counties,” Tipton wrote.

The environmental study was ordered after environmental organizations sued to halt the expansion of the West Elk Mine near Somerset, saying the federal government failed to take into account the effect of burning coal from the mine on the climate.

The Forest Service proposed reinstating the North Fork coal-mining exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule. The exception would allow Arch Coal to extend the West Elk Mine beneath the roadless area.


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