Colowyo Lowers Air Pollution Estimates
By Clay Thorp
October 2, 2019 - Colowyo Coal Company is amending its air pollution permit with the state of Colorado to pollute a bit less as part of its massive Collom expansion — a project the company says could add decades to the life of the surface coal mine.
According to a preliminary analysis conducted Sept. 4 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colowyo plans to reduce the use of ammonium nitrate/fuel for blasting rock, which will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions “and enable the facility as a whole to pass refined emissions modeling with no exceedances of any National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”
In a 2017 permit application for the Collom Expansion, Colowyo said the expansion will add at least 20 years to the life of one of the area’s two surface coal mines.
“The Collom Expansion project includes mining the Collom Pit, which will ensure the long-term future of the mine with about 25 to 30 years of reserves,” Colowyo said in the 2017 application.
Though the pollution Colowyo plans to emit could be somewhat less under the new permit, the state’s preliminary analysis shows the mine will emit thousands of tons of particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and other pollutants.
The state’s preliminary analysis shows every year the mine will emit about 3,500 tons of particulate matter, 480 tons of nitrogen oxide, 3,000 tons of carbon monoxide, 1,000 tons of particulate matter 10 micrometers in size or less, and 120 tons of particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less.
A human hair is about 100 micrometers.
Colorado considers Colowyo a minor source of air pollution, “as the potential to emit from point sources does not exceed 100 tons per year for any criteria pollutant,” the state’s preliminary analysis shows.
As part of its application to amend its air pollution permit, Colowyo has asked area governments to write letters of support to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Safety showing their approval of the amended permit.
The city of Craig approved their letter at its Sept. 24 meeting.
“It’s pretty straightforward and pretty commonplace for mines to ask for letters of support for various projects,” said Craig City Manager Peter Brixius, in a presentation before council at their regular meeting Sept. 24.
Mayor Jarrod Ogden said he’s often seen such letters of support over the years.
“We’ve had several already from Trapper, Tri-State and Colowyo,” Ogden said.
Commissioners in Moffat County approved their letter of support Tuesday during their regular meeting.
“This is a permit we endorsed and asked for an expedient process on maybe a year-and-a-half, two years ago,” said Jeff Comstock, the county’s natural resources director. “Then there were some significant changes at Colowyo when it came to acquiring additional property. As you change your property, it changes the impact of air quality, if you’re mining. So, they revised the air quality permit to become a lot more accurate.”
Comstock said Colowyo technically didn’t have to make this change.
“They did this voluntarily,” Comstock said Tuesday. “The air quality commission did not require it. But Colowyo chose, since they have a different situation on the land base, they would revise the air quality permit. So, we are endorsing and asking this… move on quickly and expeditiously especially since it was a voluntary revision.”
According to the county’s letter of support, Colowyo is Moffat County’s fourth largest taxpayer at more than $1 million per year in county taxes, employs more than 200 high-paid workers, and contributes to economic activity equal to some $250 million.