On Thursday, Dec. 27, the Bureau of Land Management's Uncompahgre Field Office posted a Record of Decision to expand federally-owned coal leases by 1,721 acres underlying national Forest Service lands about seven miles southeast of Somerset. The Federal Register Notice for the Decision Record was published Friday, Dec. 28.
The coal leases are adjacent to existing federal coal leases operated by the West Elk Mine on U.S. Forest Service and private lands. The expansion allows the recovery of up to 19 million tons of coal and extending mining operations up to three years.
Environmental analysis is required by the National Environmental Policy Act when a coal leasing action is proposed. The U.S. Forest Service completed the environmental analysis as the manager of the surface. Then the BLM formally adopted the U.S. Forest Service's Final Environmental Impact Statement for Federal Coal Lease Modifications COC-1362 and COC-67232 by signing this Record of Decision.
When the surface land is managed by another agency, the BLM must obtain consent from that agency before leasing can occur. On Aug. 2, the acting forest supervisor consented to the BLM modifying coal leases underlying the national Forest Service lands.
The West Elk Mine has been in operation since 1982 and produced about six million tons of coal in 2011. Currently, the mine employs 378 people, and the majority of these employees, as well as their families, live in communities in Delta County. Total direct economic benefits associated with the coal mines within the North Fork Valley exceed $60 million annually.
Gunnison County receives approximately $2 million annually in tax revenues as the result of the coal mining operations at the West Elk Mine. Delta County receives the indirect financial benefit and tax revenue from the indirect businesses that support the mine, and the tax base from the workers and their families who reside in the county.
To review the Record of Decision, go to www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Information/nepa/ufo.html.blog comments powered by Disqus