The LBA was previously analyzed in 2009 under the Red Cliff Mine Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), along with CAM’s pending rights-of-way (ROW) applications for a rail road and other coal mining related surface facilities and its proposed Red Cliff Mine Plan. CAM’s pending ROW facilities analyzed in the DEIS would support the development of the previously proposed Red Cliff Mine on federal lease C-0125516. After reviewing public comments received on the DEIS, it was determined that the DEIS had fatal flaws and that additional environmental review would be necessary before any decisions could be reached on the projects.
One of the major concerns raised during the public comment period on the 2009 DEIS was related to the competitive nature of the lease tract alternatives that were analyzed. Another coal company submitted a comment to BLM expressing concern that the alternatives did not include a competitive lease tract that could be effectively developed by a company other than CAM. In addition to this concern, there were a number of other specific issues that were not fully analyzed or addressed in the DEIS, which included the following:
1. Inadequate range of alternatives
a. Hunter Canyon Citizen Proposed Wilderness Area
b. Competitiveness of alternative lease tracts
i. Size (fair market value and economic recovery of tract [43 CFR 3425.4])
ii. Location and access
2. Hydrology and water quality concerns and comments
3. Air Quality concerns and comments
4. Greenhouse Gas concerns and comments
The LBA was not fully considered or analyzed under the DEIS and is now being analyzed independently under a new EIS as a stand-alone application. This change in the environmental analysis process has been made so that we can fully meet our legal requirements under the competitive coal leasing process. The LBA is not tied to or associated with an existing coal mine. If any of the coal reserves are offered for leasing, the future lease holder or lessee would be determined through a competitive bidding process. If the lease is issued, a competitive lease sale would be held. Future analysis for development of the coal reserves would be completed by the appropriate agency after the lessee submits a mine plan.
As described above, CAM’s proposed ROWs will be analyzed in a separate environmental document from the LBA. These projects will be analyzed independently because the ROWs are proposed to support development of CAM’s existing authorized lease C-0125516. Review of the ROW applications also requires site-specific analysis. The BLM has requested additional information from CAM pertaining to their ROW applications. We will be able to develop the schedule for analyzing the ROW applications and initiate the NEPA process once this information is received from CAM. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will also be invited to participate in the NEPA review process for the ROWs as a cooperating agency.
CAM’s mine permit for the Red Cliff Mine is no longer being analyzed by the BLM or any other agency. CAM withdrew the mine permit application that it filed with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (CDRMS) and with the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) for development of its existing federal leases on August 31, 2009. If the mine permit application is resubmitted, OSM and CDRMS will resume analysis of the proposal, and the BLM will participate in the review of the application as a cooperating agency.