Federal regulators have granted permission for the Colowyo Mine southwest of Steamboat Springs to expand operations.
The mine will now extract coal in territory to the north in the Collom development. Key to the approval were measures that protect the greater sage grouse, which mates and lives in the area. The owner of Colowyo, Tri State Generation and Transmission, said it will donate more than 4,543 acres of habitat and $150,000 for research to the state.
“This decision is important to the future of our member electric cooperatives and the people we serve,” said Mike McInnes, chief executive officer of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which owns the mine.
The coal from Colowyo is used by the nearby Craig power plant, owned by Tri-State. In a press release, the company said the expansion will “provide a stable fuel supply for electricity generation, 220 mining jobs, a $200 million impact to the regional economy.”
Colowyo made headlines when environmentalists sued the mine over an assessment they said inadequately evaluated the mine’s impact to climate change. A federal judge agreed in 2015, and the plan was revised.
Coal production fell by nearly 40 percent in Colorado in 2016. The drop was the result of bankruptcies at the country’s top three coal-producers and declining demand as the country’s power plants’ switch from coal to natural gas. Nationwide, production fell by nearly 18 percent.