- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

DENVER (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service said Monday it wants to revive the possibility of expanded underground coal mining in a designated roadless area in Gunnison County in western Colorado.

The agency said it plans to rewrite a set of rules and an environmental impact statement for the 30-square-mile North Fork Coal Mining Area after a federal judge tossed them out last year.

The judge said the Forest Service had failed to adequately consider the potential impact that mining and burning additional coal would have on climate change.

The area is covered by a 2012 plan that protected 6,500 square miles of undeveloped Forest Service land in Colorado, called roadless areas. The Forest Service says the plan intended to permit temporary roads for mining-related activities in the North Fork Coal Mining Area.

The roads would allow the drilling of wells to vent methane gas from an underground mine, which would be necessary to expand the mine, the Forest Service said.

Environmental groups sued, saying the exemption for the North Fork area had not taken into account the potential effects on climate change. The judge agreed.

The Forest Service is accepting public comment on its intent to revise the plans until May 22. It expects to release the proposed rules and draft environmental impact statement this year.

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Online:

Notice of proposed rulemaking, intent to develop new environmental impact statement: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/coroadlessrule

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