Peabody wants 640 more acres
The Bureau of Land Management is weighing whether to allow Peabody Energy to lease new federal land to mine up to 4.1 million more tons of coal in northwest Colorado.
The agency says it is making the decision under the Trump administration’s energy policies, which include rescinding Obama-era rules that placed a moratorium on coal leases.
Peabody has applied to lease 640 more acres of federal coal west of Steamboat Springs as part of its Foidel Creek Mine operations.
The coal producer, coming out a bankruptcy filing that disrupted Routt County’s tax base, estimates it could recover 4.1 million tons of coal from the lease area, generating about $13 million in royalties, half of which would go to Colorado, according to the BLM.
The lease would help the mine continue at its current employment level of 365 people, the BLM says.
“This would be a new federal lease within the area they are permitted to mine by the state,” said David Boyd, a BLM spokesman. “They have other federal leases in the area but not immediately adjacent to the proposed area.”
Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety data show 1,265,592 tons of coal were mined at Foidel Creek between January and April by a workforce of about 275 people. Statewide, 4,879,289 tons of coal were produced during the same period.
The Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians, a group of conservationists, in recent years have been battling the federal government over coal mining leases in the region and are poised to challenge Peabody’s latest request.
“I can tell you that we will be doing our damnedest to keep this new lease from moving forward,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians. “This is part of a broader scheme by President (Donald) Trump and his Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, to sacrifice public lands and resources in order to subsidize the coal industry.”
Colorado coal production fell by nearly 40 percent in 2016, following similar trends across the nation. Trump’s election has led to hopes in the nation’s coal communities, including in Western Colorado, that the industry’s robust days might return.
The BLM will launch an environmental assessment of the application, but first is soliciting public comments on issues or concerns through Aug. 23. The lease proposal, including maps, is available for review online.