Dennis Webb for the Grand Junction (Colo.) Daily Sentinel:
Pro-coal advocates are working to turn out in force Thursday when the Bureau of Land Management holds a meeting in Grand Junction to gather input on possible reforms to the federal coal program.
The meeting is one of six being held around the country, and supporters from Colorado and beyond are expected to show up to speak on the industry’s behalf as it struggles locally and nationally with mine layoffs and shutdowns, bankruptcies and other setbacks.
Advocates for reforming the federal coal program or even ending coal mining altogether also will be attending, although one of them, Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians, said probably not in the same numbers as the industry supporters. He’s sympathetic with their desire to rally on the industry’s behalf.
“The coal industry should be proud of what it’s done for this state. Nobody’s saying that we should not acknowledge the great stuff that they’ve brought over the years, but it’s time to move on,” from coal mining, he said.
Nichols plans to reiterate his group’s call to leave coal in the ground due to its air-pollution and climate-change impacts, but also for the federal government to step up efforts to help coal miners and communities shift away from coal economically.
“We can get behind good policies that acknowledge the need to give communities in Delta County and Craig tools to transition,” he said.
The future of Peabody Energy’s Twentymile Mine between Craig and Steamboat Springs is currently up in the air following Peabody’s decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and the failure of Bowie Resource Partners to be able to complete a deal to buy the mine.
Meanwhile, in the North Fork Valley, Oxbow Mining has permanently closed its Elk Creek Mine, Bowie has idled its Bowie No. 2 Mine, and Arch Coal, which also is in bankruptcy reorganization, recently laid off 80 miners. Combined, the valley has seen the loss of many hundreds of mining jobs in recent years.
Coal companies have faced slowdowns in national and international markets, in part due to increased competition from natural gas as a power-plant fuel source and also due to increased regulations aimed at reducing air pollutants and carbon emissions.
Nichols said it’s also important for the Interior Department to get on board when it comes to helping coal communities transition to more diverse economies.
“If they don’t, it’s just going to lead to I think more disaster for communities in the West,” Nichols said.