Twentymile Coal Co. should not be allowed to increase the amount of coal it hauls over Routt County Road 27 because the trucks can be dangerous to the public, Routt County planning commissioners said Thursday.
Trucking coal along the road has become controversial, as the number of trucks has increased to service the Hayden Power Station and to move coal out of Twentymile and Seneca mines. Residential growth along the road and the fact that school buses travel on the road has fueled the conflict.
Twentymile representatives appeared before the county Planning Commission asking to haul 360,000 tons of coal until Dec. 31, 2008, an increase over the 200,000 tons it is permitted to haul until the end of 2006. The coal trucks would travel on 14 miles of C.R. 27 between Twentymile and U.S. Highway 40.
Six of eight county planning commissioners recommended the request be denied. The Routt County Board of Commissioners will have the final decision, scheduled for 2 p.m. March 23.
The denial was not meant to target this proposal, they said, but to respond to cumulative effects of the increasing coal hauls.
Planning commissioners who denied the request said extra hauls would decrease public safety, citing recent complaints about speeding trucks, uncovered loads, windshield problems and accidents involving trucks.
Twentymile officials responded that they also wanted to be safe and to eliminate complaints.
The fact that the coal would be shipped out of state, not directly benefitting the area, was another reason they said the additional coal hauling should not be allowed.
"I have severe reservations when we start shipping coal out of state," Planning Commissioner Bill Taylor said. "I think we're getting down a very slippery road here."
He recommended that shipping coal out of state be handled by train, but Twentymile officials said there were not enough trains.
Planning commissioners also said they worried about the additional truck traffic through Steamboat Springs and the pressure on county law officers the extra hauls would create.
The current use equals 22 truckloads of coal a day, while the additional tons would contribute an extra 18 loads for a total of 40 daily. Hauling is allowed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for between 7 and 8 a.m. and 4 and 5 p.m. on school days.
The increase would equate to one additional truck on the road about every two hours, and would increase total coal truck traffic for the mines and power plant by 11.3 percent, Routt County Planner Mary Alice Page-Allen said.
Laurie Hallenbeck, who lives with her family along C.R. 27, said she feared for her children's safety because of the trucks.
"We see these trucks come by and it just scares the beans out of us," Hallenbeck said. "I just want my children to be safe, I want my livestock to be safe, I want my family to be safe."