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Coal Company Tries Again On Mine Permit

Revised Ramaco application
Liz Brimmer
Ramaco Carbon

Ramaco Carbon has submitted a revised permit to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The Environmental Quality Council (EQC), an independent review board, refused the company’s first permit last year to begin constructing the Brook Mine in Sheridan County. 

The EQC said it lacked information within hydrology, blasting schedules, and subsidence. The company intends to use its coal to research and develop advanced products like electronics or insulation rather than produce energy.

In Ramaco’s news release, a project manager said the permit provides the furthest-reaching environmental protections of any coal mine permit ever considered in the state. A year after its deficient permit, Ramaco addressed water, blasting, and subsidence concerns in this version. It used new modeling techniques to ensure water supplies would see minimal impacts, contracted an independent firm to ensure subsidence wasn’t an issue, and cut production by 90 percent.

Ramaco CEO Randy Atkins said production was initially going to start at 2 million tons of coal per year and ramp up to ten.

"What we’ve done is basically go back and say initially to start the mine, mine it at much lower volumes to comply with what we need for research activities,” he said.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council released a statement questioning the speediness of the new permit calling it smokes and mirrors. In the statement, the council’s staff attorney Shannon Anderson said she’s skeptical all of the first permits issues have been resolved.

One of the landowner concerns last year was, also, the lack of opportunity for public input. Ramaco's Atkins said he hopes that’s not the case this time.

“This time I believe the DEQ, we hope, will have a public hearing themselves, and be the best party to address any concerns,” he said, rather than the independent review board that rejected Ramaco’s initial permit, the Environmental Quality Council, "which frankly didn’t have the same technical expertise as the DEQ.”

Atkins said he’s confident Ramaco got it right this time. The DEQ will go through a completeness and then technical analysis before putting it out for 30 days of public comment.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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