DENVER — A WildEarth Guardians official had this message after the Interior Department refused to appeal a court ruling that could cost the jobs of 220 Colorado coal miners: Tough luck. Except he didn’t say “luck.”
“My initial response is ‘tough sh**,’ ” Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians climate and energy program director, told the liberal Colorado Independent in a July 13 post.
“They [the Interior Department] didn’t appeal, and there is nothing they can do about it now,” Mr. Nichols said.
Supporters of the mine decried his comments Thursday as “callous” and an example of the group’s “out-of-control war on coal,” as Advancing Colorado’s Jonathan Lockwood put it.
“I wonder if Jeremy Nichols has the courage to say that directly — face-to-face — to the 220 coal miners who will lose their jobs if Nichols and WildEarth Guardians are successful in shutting down the Colowyo Mine,” said Amy Oliver Cooke, energy policy director at the free-market Independence Institute in Denver.
“Better yet, I wonder if he would be that callous to the children of those same men and women,” she said. “In that one statement, Nichols personifies modern environmentalism. It’s an elitist movement with no regard for hardworking families in Colorado or any other state.”
Mr. Nichols’ remarks came in response to a July 9 letter from Colorado lawmakers to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking for assurances that the federal Office of Surface Mining will be able to complete an environmental review by the Sept. 6 deadline.
If not, the Colowyo coal mine could be shuttered, a threat to the northwest Colorado economy that has mobilized lawmakers from Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper to Republican Rep. Scott Tipton.
Ms. Jewell has agreed to meet with local officials Friday evening in Glenwood Springs to discuss the mine’s future following a speech at the Aspen Institute.
She described as “relatively minor” the anticipated net loss of 200 jobs nationwide from the administration’s proposed water-quality rule on coal mines unveiled Thursday, according to the Craig [Colorado] Daily Press.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson gave the agency 120 days to redo an eight-year-old expansion permit to factor in the impacts of climate change and other considerations in response to a WildEarth Guardians lawsuit.
In their letter, Mr. Tipton and Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner said they had concerns “about the rapidly approaching deadline, and your Department’s decision to not appeal the Court’s decision has done nothing to allay this concern.”
“The detrimental effects of shutting down this mine go far beyond the jobs and livelihoods lost,” said the letter. “The mine forms a critical part of western Colorado’s energy supply, providing reliable and affordable electricity in much of the western half of the state.”
WildEarth Guardians took a hit to its image after about 450 of 600 businesses dropped off its online list of supporters following the outcry over the judge’s order, the Daily Press reported in a June 18 article.
Local liquor stores and bars organized a “beer boycott,” refusing to serve beers of Colorado breweries listed as supporters. Shortly thereafter, a half-dozen breweries had their names removed from the list, with spokesmen for several of those saying that they had made minimal donations to causes unrelated to coal.