The future of coal in Northwest Colorado is a focus of “Fueling Thought: Energy Summit 2010,” hosted by Yampa Valley Partners and to be held May 13 and 14 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion in Craig. For information, an agenda and registration details, visit www.yampavalleypartners.com and follow the “Energy Summits” link.
Steamboat Springs State Sen. Al White said this week that a new law intended to reduce emissions and convert some Front Range coal plants to natural gas could result in as many as 200 lost jobs at Routt County’s Twentymile coal mine.
Gov. Bill Ritter signed House Bill 10-1365, known as the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, into law Monday. Ritter’s office said the bill requires Xcel Energy to cut nitrous oxide emissions by 80 percent from several Front Range coal-fired power plants by the end of 2017. Xcel will submit a plan to the state Public Utilities Commission by Aug. 15, Ritter’s office said, detailing how Xcel will retire or retrofit the aging coal plants, or re-power them with natural gas or other energy sources.
White, a Hayden Republican, said he spoke with Twentymile Coal Co. Manager Mike Ludlow about the potential impacts to the mine on Routt County Road 27. White said Twentymile sells about 8 million tons of coal per year, including 1.8 million to 2 million tons — or about 25 percent of the mine’s annual production — to Front Range power plants that could be converted to natural gas under the new law.
Ludlow “is predicting that will cause them to have to lay off about 25 percent of their work force, which he says is about 125 to 200 employees,” White said Wednesday.
White said Twentymile employees earn an average of $90,000 to $100,000 per year, including benefits, meaning the county could lose high-paying jobs during the economic recession.
“Twentymile is more impacted by this bill than any other mine in the state because they sell more coal to these power plants than any other mine in the state,” White said.
Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said Thursday that the bill will be “a net job creator for the Colorado economy,” citing jobs created to retrofit Xcel plants, work at new natural gas plants or work at new drilling sites potentially created by increased demand for natural gas. It also could boost clean coal efforts, Dreyer said.
“If (the bill) acts as a motivator or a driver to reinvigorate research and development (and) the push for clean coal technologies, then that’s a good thing,” Dreyer said. “This country and this world need to move to cleaner sources of energy and power. Coal can be a part of that, but coal in its current form is not.”
Dreyer also said the law is an effort to get ahead of future federal emission standards.
White said, in his view, the bill will cut more jobs than it will create in Colorado, through losses at coal mines, coal power plants and railroad coal distribution.
White also spoke about the issue earlier this week on The Cari and Rob Show, a conservative-leaning radio program on KRAI AM 550 featuring Steamboat Springs City Council President Cari Hermacinski and former Steamboat Pilot & Today columnist Rob Douglas.
Hermacinski spoke about the bill’s potential impacts publicly at the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting in Centennial Hall.
“We’ve seen our construction industry really take a hit, and I’m afraid that we’re going to see that in the mining industry, as well,” she said.
Moffat County commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the bill last month, the Craig Daily Press reported.
St. Louis-based Peabody Energy is the parent company of Twentymile Coal Co. A Peabody spokeswoman did not provide a response this week to the legislation’s potential impacts on Twentymile employees.