Routt County commissioners will consider Xcel Energy's request to haul as much as 900,000 tons of coal a year on a county road.
The haul would be on 13.5 miles of Routt County Road 27 and would supply Xcel's Hayden Power Station for the short term.
Xcel already has a permit, issued in 2004, to haul 1.8 million tons of coal from Twentymile Coal Mine on the road. However, that permit requires Xcel to upgrade a 3.5-mile section of road.
Xcel came back for another permit so it could avoid the road improvements, Xcel officials said at an April 7 hearing before the Routt County Planning Commission. Instead, Xcel offered to pay $1 per ton of coal hauled.
Routt County Planner John Eastman said the road improvements could have been started last summer and finished this summer, with the hauls to follow. Now it's too late, as Xcel will need the coal before the roads probably could be finished.
"They could have been good to go," Eastman said. "They chose not to (improve the road)."
The main question is whether that much coal can be hauled by trucks on unimproved roads without requiring road upgrades, Eastman said.
The Planning Commission was split about whether to recommend approval of the request.
One major concern is increased truck traffic on the road. Hauling 900,000 tons on the road each year could mean 230 one-way truck trips daily for six days a week.
Xcel's request would amend a 2000 permit that allows Xcel Energy to haul 300,000 tons of coal a year from Twentymile Coal Company. That permit expires in 2006, but in May, Xcel will have reached its 300,000-ton limit for the year.
The Hayden Station needs to get coal from Twentymile because Peabody Coal Mine, which was the Seneca Mine, could close by the end of the year.
In the worst-case scenario, without the permit being renewed, the Hayden Station could run out of coal in October, according to scenarios submitted by Xcel. The best-case scenario shows coal supplies diminishing in late February.
The county already has approved a longer-term temporary solution -- the Hayden Gulch terminal. However, other permits and possibly millions of dollars in improvements are needed before that system can be put in place.
Plans are in the works for a permanent method of getting coal from Twentymile to the Hayden Station. County commissioners denied one option for a permanent solution April 12.
The Planning Commission did not discuss the issue more after its vote, so did not make recommendations regarding potential permit conditions, Eastman said.
At Xcel's request, county planning staff wrote a draft set of permit conditions for county commissioners to consider, he said. Those conditions are a "starting place" for county commissioners.
Routt County commissioners will consider Xcel's request to amend its permit at 2:30 p.m. in the Commissioners Hearing Room of the Courthouse Annex.
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