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State looking at two week timeline for VCUP review Print
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
U.S.E. no fan of HCCA

As might be expected, U.S. Energy was not happy with the decision by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to suspend its decision allowing the company to pursue a Voluntary Clean-up Program (VCUP) with the historic Keystone Mine site on Mt. Emmons just west of Crested Butte.

 

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U.S. Energy proposed capping the current mine adits (shafts), reinforcing the existing tailings ponds and utilizing passive water treatment systems. They would then demolish the current wastewater treatment plant. Their argument is that the contaminated water coming from the old Keystone Mine site would be plugged into Mt. Emmons and the wastewater treatment plant that purifies Coal Creek would no longer be needed.
“The company hasn’t directly responded to us,” explained CDPHE Superfund/Brownfields Unit leader Doug Jamison. “But we were copied on a letter that U.S. Energy sent to the governor’s office. We have relooked at the original VCUP application to see if based on their information they were ineligible for a VCUP but it looks like it fits the parameters. We are now waiting on the stakeholders to submit ‘readily available’ information for us to consider.”
Jamison said the state is giving the stakeholders approximately a week to submit new information. The CDPHE would take about another week to re-evaluate the application. “We are probably looking at about two weeks to announce a decision but nothing is set in stone,” he said.
The town of Crested Butte, the Red Lady Coalition and High Country Citizens’ Alliance have not yet submitted new information but have indicated they plan to participate in the reevaluation.
Jamison said anyone with pertinent information could participate in the process and submit information that is “readily available. We’ve reached out to the stakeholders and are stressing the timely basis we are looking at.”
In the letter from U.S. Energy president Mark Larsen to Governor Hickenlooper, the company asks that the “temporary suspension” of the VCUP  approval be withdrawn and the company “be allowed to move forward with the remediation and clean-up under VCUP for the historic Keystone Mine site, consistent with the law and in full recognition of the underlying policy considerations.”

Much of the U.S. Energy letter was spent responding to a letter sent around the state by HCCA. It is not gentle in accusing HCCA of mischaracterizing U.S. Energy’s intentions and claims HCCA’s ultimate goal is to hobble the company as it seeks to clean up the old mine site and get approval for a new molybdenum mine.
HCCA executive director Greg Dyson said there is a reason the environmental organization is bringing up concerns. “We in the community know from experience that we can’t trust them to do what’s in the best interest of the community - they will only do what’s in the best interest of U.S. Energy,” he commented.  “We’re working to get the conversation about the VCUP expanded so that it DOES take into consideration the needs of the community, particularly in regards to clean water.”
As far as the extended VCUP review, Jamison said the CDPHE can reverse its approval decision if it is determined that U.S. Energy supplied misleading information in the original application or if new information comes to light that changes the eligibility.
When it comes to the safety of the VCUP, Jamison said the department would consider this to be a big project. “There have been several other similar-sized projects. This is certainly a complex project but it appears they have discussed the program requirements in detail,” he said. “A lot of the projects we have done have been smaller but we’ve done a VCUP of several hundred acres. This is something we would monitor for a while. We would continue to be involved in the project along the way.”
The letter from U.S. Energy to the governor also states that the company “remains open to a permanent resolution of the Mt. Emmons molybdenum project.”
The Forest Service is keeping an eye on the VCUP process as it relates to the company’s efforts to get approval for a molybdenum mine. “Depending on where this goes there may be a need for US Energy to amend the Plan of Operations for the mine at some point but this can’t be done since they don’t have a plan for the water treatment plant that has been reviewed and accepted,” explained District Ranger for the Gunnison Ranger District John Murphy.  “I’m not sure how the State’s VCUP works but there is a public involvement phase for the work on Federal lands that has not taken place yet.  Since US Energy is focused on the cleanup of the Keystone mine this could delay the public scoping for their mine development proposal.”

 
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