Coal miners rally in Grand Junction against clean-energy plans

Twentymile Coal Co. employees from Craig, Steamboat Springs attend packed public hearing

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— Legislation aimed at cleaning up Denver's air and turning Colorado into a model state for clean energy and jobs is feared as a job killer for the Western Slope's coal country.

Sign-waving coal miners stole the show from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Monday night as they rallied outside the old Mesa County Courthouse. They gathered before the commission's first hearing on Xcel Energy's plan to close or retrofit some of its Front Range coal-fired plants. The changes are being made to comply with the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act.

"Rock on for coal," yelled Twentymile Coal miner Jeremy Guarasci, who sported a miner's pick-and-shovel tattoo on his neck and a sign reading, "Lost Coal, Lost Jobs." He and other miners and their supporters — many from mines around Craig and Steamboat Springs — one after another denigrated the act that was passed in April with bipartisan support.

That act requires Xcel Energy to cut nitrogen-oxide emissions by up to 80 percent from several Front Range coal plants by the end of 2017. Xcel plans to do that by retiring or retrofitting 900 megawatts of its coal-fired capacity and replacing it with natural gas, solar and wind energy.

The coal industry claims that will cost more than 500 jobs.

During a hearing that included less-emotional, sworn testimony, more than 400 politicians, environmentalists, miners, along with drillers from the Western Slope's oil and gas fields who stand to benefit from the legislation, overflowed a gilded hearing room.

Many had driven hours to the only hearing that will be held outside of Denver and weren't happy when the sound system failed.

PUC director Ron Binz moved the hearing outdoors. He and the other two commissioners perched on a concrete planter and took testimony from a crowd that spilled across the street.

David Ludlum, director of the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, spoke up for the state's 6,000 natural-gas employees and contractors, saying the legislation will boost the state as "a leader in natural-gas exploration."

The Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act doesn't just have two energy industries disagreeing. Republicans are also at odds over the legislation, passed just 17 days after its introduction in order to beat the federal Environmental Protection Agency's end-of-year deadline.

Not hitting that deadline with a plan for cutting emissions could have meant federal mandates for Colorado.

Republican state legislators Sen. Josh Penry of Grand Junction and Rep. Ellen Roberts of Durango sponsored the bill along with Democrats Sen. Bruce Whitehead of Hesperus and Rep. Judy Solano of Brighton.

"I wish Josh Penry would show his face here," said a woman in the crowd after former GOP state senator Jack Taylor of Routt County decried "the back-door, behind-the- scenes deal" and suggested the PUC "kick this thing out and start all over again."

The PUC will hold its next — and last — hearing on Xcel's plan in Denver on Sep. 23.

Nancy Lofholm: 970-256-1957 or nlofholm@denverpost.com

Comments

beentheredonethat 3 years, 7 months ago

short sighted to continue to support the coal industry. it is much wiser, especially for those of us concerned about future generations, to invest heavily into renewable energy sources.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 7 months ago

And the proposed alternative fuel, mainly natural gas, is expected to add jobs due to additional drilling and pipelines.

Also, Colorado coal is higher energy and lower sulfur and thus the more that emissions becomes an issue then the more demand for Colorado coal.

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jerry carlton 3 years, 7 months ago

We need to get rid of foreign oil by whatever means necessary except nuclear. That way we quit funding worldwide terrorism. I worked on the edge of the nuclear industry for a period of tine and I do not believe we have the technology to make the plants totally safe or to deal with the waste by products.

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sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

I knew it wouldn't take long to get the anti-fossil crowd fired up.

How come the headline could not have been: "Coal miners rally for local jobs, local economy". ??????????????????????????? At almost every turn the Steamboat "pile-it" shows its bias.

If we don't burn coal the chicoms will. The planet won't know the difference. And they won't burn it half as clean as we do.

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JLM 3 years, 7 months ago

Not a single American has been killed by nuclear power in the nuclear power generation business. Nuclear power is THE low cost source of power generation in the US.

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Cooke 3 years, 7 months ago

Seems like a growing pain. We know that eventually we are going to need to move towards a cleaner, more renewable source of energy. There never will be an ideal time. Yes, it is going to hurt. Yes, citizens of this state are going to lose their jobs. Yes, that really does suck. I agree with JLM though, we need to be able to adapt to a new model, and workers will have to adapt also. Not trying to get your goat here Sled, but what the heck is a “chicom”?

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Bob Kois 3 years, 7 months ago

Another better headline might have been "Coal Miners rally against increased costs of energy".

I agree we should spend money locally for energy needs including cleaner coal and natural gas.

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housepoor 3 years, 7 months ago

Sled - "If we don't burn coal the chicoms will. The planet won't know the difference. And they won't burn it half as clean as we do."

But MOM why can't I do it???? They're doing it!!! Not Fair!!! LOL

Are you a baby boomer by any chance?

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sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

Cooke, Chineese- Communists

Another way to move to cleaner alternative energy is to clean up the energy sources we already have. How much energy will it waste to abandon power plants, coal mines, rail systems, etc and build new facilities? THAT is more wasteful than just cleaning up the coal (which is getting very clean now) Of course, new power plants should use the cleanest energy source possible so long as it is abundant, clean and cheap. (nat gas)

House, I guess I am a boomer, not really sure. What are the parrameters for that?

It's not at all the same as "mom why can't I do it?" By not participating, the child will not be harmed. Conversely, the point I am making is that the coal will be burned and the emmissions will go into earths atmosphere. Unlike the "mom..." scenario this "harm to the child" will occur whether or not WE burn it. Therefore, we should burn coal, burn it cleaner than china thereby holding the price of worldwide coal high. That high coal price will encourage the chicoms to seek alternatives that will likely be cleaner.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years, 7 months ago

housepoor:

You've missed the point entirely. Most of the rest of the world (most notably China & India) could give a rip about Western elites elevating the Al Gores of the world as champions of Mother Earth's virtue. Google "coal use in China & India" and see what pops up.

Like it or not, the global economy revolves around energy production. Like it or not, we are wedded to fossil fuels for a long time to come. Initiatives like cap & tax would serve only to penalize our own economy, and empower everyone else's - while doing nothing to achieve the green utopia the left says it wants. Your dismissal of that reality seems the more childish position, to me.

Here's a provocative suggestion: "If Barack Obama were to marshal America’s vast scientific and strategic resources behind a new Manhattan Project, he might reasonably hope to reinvent the global energy landscape and sketch an end to our dependence on fossil fuels within three to five years." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/7970619/Obama-could-kill-fossil-fuels-overnight-with-a-nuclear-dash-for-thorium.html

Don't know enough about thorium to gauge whether or not it's just wishful thinking, but the eggheads cited in the piece seem optimistic.

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cntrygirl 3 years, 7 months ago

I'm against anything that weakens our local economy. Wake up people, the coal industry is crucial for keeping our local economy stable. Anyone who thinks that the temperary jobs created by building a pipeline can replace the many permenant jobs that will be lost by closing the coal mines is extremely short sighted. Take a look at how many people are employed in the coal industry in Routt and Moffat counties, then go ahead and subtract the property and sales tax these families pay~ yes they actually pay taxes & don't live off the government, then subtract what these families spend per year at our local businesses, and then take a look at what this will do to the real estate prices when a glut of vaccant houses hit the market when these families move to find work. The Coal mines themselves contribute huge amounts of tax money to our counties. Who's going to make up this huge deficet? Tourism? Individual tax increases? I think not! I for one am not ready or willing to lower our whole community's standard of living to support natural gas.

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housepoor 3 years, 7 months ago

The coal will be burned, you are right; I am in the near term for the greater utilization of clean coal, nuclear power and natural gas, anything to get us out of Middle East. It just seems all we've done for that past 25 years is pass the buck on every tough issue that comes along. Unlike the ww1 and 2 generation where the focus seemed on making the US a better place for their children and grandchildren and were willing to sacrifice their own standard of living for the common good. Currently all we seem to do want to do is make it easier NOW and not necessarily better. Energy, education, health care, social security, the environment, national debt…the list goes on and on All we hear is its too expensive or it will hurt business, the economy is too fragile, we like our cheap gas and suv's At some point someone needs to make the tough, unpopular choice.

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brian ferguson 3 years, 7 months ago

All of Colorado's coal miners should go on strike and let these eco-greenies figure it all out in the dark.

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sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

The best way to raise living standards is to leave markets alone and let them work, get out of debt and strip away excessive regulation.

People like Carnegie in steel(excuse spelling) and Rockerfeller in oil and Ford in autos gave middle class Americans better cheaper products that made their lives easier. In turn Americans had more time and money for education and recreation. The result is more people are able to work on solving the challenges we are all concerned about.

A century and a half ago it took 95 of every 100 Americans working on the farm to feed America. Today it takes 2! Thats a great improvement.

We can improve more but not when we take options such as coal, oil, mining, timber production, etc off the table. And not when we start each day at 6am but have to work till noon or later for our retarded uncle. We impair our own ability to meet the challenges of the future when we do that.

Coal can be made cleaner, oil can be extracted safely, renewable energy can be improved and someday perfected. I say we had better get busy on ALL of those... NOW.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 7 months ago

Sled, And a river caught fire and burned in the US. Industry, on their own, was not protecting the environment.

They did not ban coal mining in Colorado. Excel just agreed to burn nat gas of which Colorado is a producer.

Modern world would say Google, Intel, Apple and Microsoft have replaced the old industries of steel, oil and autos as building the products that improve the lives of people.

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beentheredonethat 3 years, 7 months ago

there is no such thing a "cleaner coal". all fossil fuels are polluting. some coal just burns less dirty than others.

"clean coal" is a name made up by the coal industry and dimwits buy into it.

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sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

Less dirty is clean in comparison. Your own words betray you.

Of course, the new technologies replaced the Rockerfeller era. The principal remains the same. So, a river caught fire. If you want an omlet you have to break a few eggs. The lives of millions are improved with innovation that happens every day.

Let all who forsake fossil fuel stand and be counted. We can take you off the list. 1.beentheredonethat 2.

Those on the list agree to get off our planet in 30 days or less.

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Kristopher Hammond 3 years, 7 months ago

Sled: Whose lives were improved by the burning Cuyahoga River in Ohio? What was the omelet that justified the broken flaming eggshells?? What innovation did the burning river represent?

If the Yampa caught fire downstream from the power plants or the coal mines would that just be broken eggshells?

Think of all the wagonbuilders and farriers who lost their jobs to automobiles 100 years ago.

Think of all the fossil fuel workers who will lose their jobs to solar panels and nuclear power plants...

We don't have enough fossil fuel. Depending on it makes us dependent on foreigners, many of whom aren't friendly.

Look ahead 30 years. Should we be ripping up more and more land looking for less and less oil or should we be weaned off the oil starting now?

If we beat the chicoms to renewable energy independence we will be the ones with the technology everyone wants and needs and will pay for. If they beat us because we couldn't imagine being anything but wagonbuilders....then we deserve what we end up with.

We pay less for gas than almost everywhere else in the world. And somehow, the rest of the world is not living in expensive-energy squalor.

Are you willing to make a sacrifice now for the future, or not? I am betting that you do not have children.

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sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

The river burning probably gave the fish quite an experiance to share with their offspring... "remember back when I was a minnow..."

I expect the wagonbuilders and farriers were happy to get out of the mud and into Fords factory.

We do have enough fossil fuel. Every decade the estimates rise, even after a decade of depletion. We are awash in oil, coal and nat gas.

If you think oil prices will rise, buy some, sell at a proffit and donate the "winnings" to clean energy research. If you think oil will fall, short it. Then give the "winnings" to clean energy research. Thats how YOU can do your clean energy dream without putting the gun to my head.

Why is paying less for gas a bad thing? Tell the truth. Environmental extremists want higher energy prices don't they? They want people who would dare use fossil fuel to suffer. They want industry to suffer.

I would ask many on the left the same question: "Are you willing to make a sacrifice now for the future?" Can you give up your immediate desire to switch out of fossil fuels so quickly and instead allow us to transition there gradually without disrupting markets and spiking energy costs up? Will you curb your apetite for OPM and allow free markets to work things out? Or, have you made up your mind that cleaner air, water and soil than we've had in many generations and significant ongoing improvement are not enough? Have you a particular utopia in mind that you are determined to realize even at the expense of others who can only afford so much. Are you like the "evil" conservatives who would have granny's medicare cut, only with you it's forcing poor granny to chose between food or turning off her heat?

My honest answer is no, I am not willing to tamper with energy markets and steer them into alternative energy sources pre-maturely. The hardship it will place on our economy is unnecessary.

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jerry carlton 3 years, 7 months ago

JLM You are correct. No American has ever been killed by Nuclear power generation. We got really lucky at Three Mile Island. Ask the Russian people how safe the Nuclear power industry is. The people around Chernoybl {spelling?} are not too fond of Nuclear power. It has been 25 years since I helped build Nuclear fuel handling cranes in Denver at a company called General Iron Works which was a subsidiary of Stearns-Roger. We also built two IF-300 Shipping Casks for shipping spent nuclear fuel which were sent to Japan. At that tine spent fuel was stored at nuclear plants in storage pools. This material was awaiting the technology of reprocessing plants or permanent disposal in caverns in Nevada. I have not seen any thing in the news for a long time about either of these technologies being perfected and as far as I know this material is still sitting in pools 25 years later. Do you know something I do not? There is my limited background and knowledge of the nuclear industry. What are your credentials? I am pro coal, domestic oil, domestic natural gas, renewable sources. WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST TO EVER REGAIN OUR NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE AND TO BE ABLE TO QUIT SACRIFICING OUR FINEST YOUNG MEN FOR THE ENERGY WE REQUIRE.

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Jeff Kibler 3 years, 7 months ago

As for oil imports, here's the numbers:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_level_imports/current/import.html

Less than I expected from the Middle East, more than I expected from Africa.

As for nuclear, the U.S. gave up after WPPSS and Three Mile Island. Look to France for very successful nuclear power generation and nuclear waste recycling.

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cntrygirl 3 years, 7 months ago

I bet everyone who's commented in favor of replacing coal with natural gas is still driving a car. How does that work? I say we need to eliminate fuel burning motorized vehicles to reduce emmisions or does that hit too close to home? If someone drives to the grocery store, or work, or into the mountians to watch the leaves change, or cross country to see friends & family, they shouldn't be so quick to support something that is going to put hundreds of people out of work. Maybe they should be looking at themselves and how they are influencing the environment.

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Cooke 3 years, 7 months ago

cntyrgirl -- Lots of people are driving smaller cars to reduce their emissions. Apply that same logic to our means of energy production. We need cars - we try and make them cleaner. We need energy - we are trying to make it cleaner. I’m not saying that Excel’s approach is the right one, nor am I saying that it would be painless. But your argument is fundamentally flawed.

As a sidebar, check out this CNN article on flammable water in Pennsylvania today.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/09/02/fracking/index.html?hpt=C1

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jerry carlton 3 years, 7 months ago

Jeff Thanks for info. Canada is the shocker to me. Lets buy all we can from Canada and phase out Saudi Arabia and Venezula. France is another surprise. Nuclear energy, part of building the Concorde but can not build a decent automobile?

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sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

You/we cant buy oil from Canada instead of Saudi. Oil is a fungible commodity. We buy it from the World market.

If we buy more from Canada some other country will have to buy theirs from Saudi. The effects will not change.

You people are MAD.

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Kristopher Hammond 3 years, 7 months ago

Sled, you have convinced me. You must have a spy on the other side to be able to know what they want. Now I know that there is a limitless supply of oil, and anyone who disagrees hates America and wants the chicoms to win. Now I know that the goal of the liberal environmentalists is to destroy America by pushing for a switch to domestic renewable alternative energy as soon as possible. What else are the liberal environmentalists planning in their quest to destroy America?

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housepoor 3 years, 7 months ago

what about the bikers being secret UN operatives and Obama using his terrorists buddys to blow up oil rigs to push his cap and trade agenda......details at 10 only on FOX NEWS

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sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

It does not take a windvane to know how the wind blows. I have no need of a spy.

I agree; there is a virtually limitless supply of oil, coal, natural gas. And much of it is Americas for the taking. Let's take it!

Destroying America may not be environmentalists goal but it IS their effect. Some want the destruction, some don't.

What else... planning? A world tax to offset global warming/ climate change/ polar bear dying/ jungle burning (and it is a jungle, not rainforest by the way) ice melting/ asteroid crashing/ co2 emmiting/ fossil burning/ carbon emmitting/ plastic bag dumping/ trans-fat eating/ ciggarette smokin/ SUV driving/ bottle tossin/ oil spillin/ ground fracking/ gas guzzling/ environment hating rednecks like me. Thats what they are planning... but.. "Tis a many a slip tweanst the cup and the lip." And November is lookin kinda slippery.

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blue_spruce 3 years, 7 months ago

sled -

you forget that most environmentalists ARE commies!

in the words of the great ronald reagan, "Drill Baby Drill !!"

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pitpoodle 3 years, 7 months ago

Sledneck is right on a lot of what he says. Personally, I don't oppose natural gas but can we please make sure our water supply isn't damaged by what is call fracking. Natural gas companies deny that their procedures cause water to ignite. I want to see proof and full disclosure. We should all demand it before believing a potentially greedly natural gas industry. Also, remember that natural gas prices constantly and unpredictably rise. So, loss of permanent jobs by the coal industry, plus very temporary jobs for natural gas industry workers, increased prices for electricity for residents, and ground water damage could spell even more hard economic times for north western CO. I hop this is not what you advocate. Think this through before you support it.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years, 7 months ago

Another passenger on the thorium bandwagon:

Development of Tiny Thorium Reactors Could Wean the World Off Oil In Just Five Years http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-08/thorium-reactors-could-wean-world-oil-just-five-years

"Thorium, named for the Norse god of thunder, is much more abundant than uranium and has 200 times that metal's energy potential. Thorium is also a more efficient fuel source -- unlike natural uranium, which must be highly refined before it can be used in nuclear reactors, all thorium is potentially usable as fuel...

...After a three-decade lull, nuclear power is enjoying a slow renaissance in the U.S. The 2005 energy bill included $2 billion for six new nuclear power plants, and this past February, Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear plants.

But nuclear plants need fuel, which means building controversial uranium mines. Thorium, on the other hand, is so abundant that it's almost an annoyance. It's considered a waste product when mining for rare-earth metals."

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sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

Watermelons, actually. Green on the outside, red on the inside.

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