Who needs "ersatz consensus'?

  Dear HCN,

Your article on coal mining in the North Fork of the Gunnison River was interesting in its happy-happy spin on ersatz consensus and collaboration groups (HCN, 7/31/00: Out of the darkness: A Western Colorado community meets a coal boom halfway). As an environmental activist, the main question I had was this: "Was the environment protected through this process, and was the public's interest maintained?"

The answer is a pretty obvious "no." The surface issues, involving trucks and trains on the highway, seemed to be addressed pretty well - though resolved only mediocrely. That would involve what I would call "human impact." But at what cost? The company is now going to pull three times as much stuff out of the ground as they were before. No more jobs will be created - indicating a terminal industry. No real analysis was done on what would happen to groundwater in the area - only the promise of mitigation (score 0 for the real environmental issue in the area). The state of the North Fork of the Gunnison (poor to absolutely godawful) was not assessed - though this is probably as much a fault of the ranchers in the area as anyone. Score 0 for the natural environment again. The BLM staffers, the trained professionals who were supposed to be doing their jobs as regulators, defaulted on their duties one more time, recasting unpaid citizens in the roles of regulators. You can be sure that the coal company's representatives were receiving money for their time at the table.

Oh, but local people liked each other in the end - sorta. Or at least some of them don't have to worry about mining thugs killing them. And a generalist endemic, widespread species (the robin) that's as likely to be found in New York City as Paonia, was tweeting at the end. That's what really is supposed to come out of an EIS process in a rural/wildland area?

Chuck Pezeshki
Moscow, Idaho