County to decide on coal idea

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The Routt County Board of Commissioners will consider a request for a permit allowing Peabody Energy to unload coal at its Hayden Gulch facility for the next few years.

The permit lets Peabody deliver coal to Xcel Energy's Hayden Power Station, which will lose its primary source of coal when the nearby Seneca coal mine closes this year.

Commissioners will consider the permit today. The permit is for the short term -- Xcel Energy is working to develop a long-term solution to supply coal to the power station.

"We realize the importance and the need to provide fuel to the Hayden Power Station," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said. "Basically, that power station provides power for 750,000 homes, and we believe that's a vital community aspect."

At the same time, he said, commissioners have to balance those needs with the concerns of and effects on the local communities and neighborhoods.

"We hope that all the players can come together for some amenable solution," Monger said.

The permit comes to county commissioners after the Routt County Planning Commission unanimously recommended last Thursday that the permit be approved on the condition it would only last for three years.

The Planning Commission's previous concerns, including that the Public Utilities Commission could require a rail overpass or separated-grade crossing of U.S. Highway 40 and that there could be visual and auditory effects on The Haven Assisted Living Center were addressed Thursday.

Staff with the Public Utilities Commission said the U.S. 40 crossing should be OK, and officials with The Haven agreed to a landscape plan that would shield the center from some effects, the Planning Commission was told.

If the permit were granted, trains would access Hayden Gulch, which last was used as a coal loading facility in 1995, from an existing spur off the Union Pacific mainline east of Hayden. The spur crosses U.S. 40 before heading south about 1.3 miles, where it crosses Routt County Road 37 near the gulch.

Trucks would then haul coal to the Hayden Station on an existing haul road.

About five trains would use the Hayden Gulch each week. Train crossings on U.S. 40 and on C.R. 37 could last for three to five minutes each, officials said.

Even if the project receives final approval from the county, it must receive other permits related to air quality, water and other aspects.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners will consider the permit at 4 p.m. today in the Commissioners Hearing Room of the Courthouse Annex.

On March 15, the Routt County Board of Commissioners will consider a proposal from Xcel to build a long-term coal delivery system for the Hayden Power Station. On Jan. 20, the Routt County Planning Commission denied a special-use permit for Xcel to build a railroad spur through the Carpenter Ranch and other properties. County commissioners were scheduled to hear the same request today, but that has been tabled until March.

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