On Thursday, Sal Pace, a Pueblo Democrat running for the 3rd Congressional District of Colorado, visited with officials at Trapper Mine in Craig to learn how impending federal regulations could affect the coal mining industry.
Although Trapper Mine has been operating under the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, company officials raised concerns about impending regulations on its partners in the coal-fired power generation industry, most notably neighboring Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s Craig Station.
Currently all the coal produced at Trapper Mine goes to help fuel Craig Station.
Proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations, such as the Mercury Air Toxics Rule and New Source Performance Standards, would not only drive up the costs of coal-fired electricity on consumers, but could prohibit new coal-fired power plants from being constructed in the future, Trapper Mine officials said.
“If you look at all of the things that the environmentalists are trying to stop us from doing — burning coal, burning any kind of fossil fuel, stopping nuclear power, tearing down hydroelectric dams — you’re left with all of the other sources of energy producing five percent of this country’s electricity needs,” Trapper Mine General Manager Jim Mattern said. “That doesn’t just worry me as a miner, it worries me as a consumer.”
Mattern highlighted the volatile history of natural gas costs to argue against a growing trend of closing or converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas as outlined in Colorado House Bill 10-1365, the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act.
“We’re not enemies of natural gas or renewables,” Mattern said. “Gas may be cheap now, but the price of gas has gone up 40 percent in the last 30 days. What happens to energy costs if natural gas goes up to $15 like when it peaked in 2008?
“You have to have a cheap, reliable source of energy as a baseload.”
Pace and Trapper Mine officials appeared to be on the same page.
Although Pace said he supported HB10-1365 as the House District 46 representative in the Colorado General Assembly, he admitted the need for reliable sources of energy to maintain the country’s energy independence.
“It makes sense to have a diverse energy portfolio,” Pace said. “You hear the term ‘all of the above,’ but the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.”
After his meeting with Trapper Mine officials, Pace took a tour of the mine’s surface operations.
In addition to learning about Trapper Mine’s reclamation activities and seeing some mine equipment in operation, Pace was invited by mine employees to “shoot” dynamite in what will soon be Trapper’s next coal pit.
After the tour, Pace opened up about a number of issues concerning voters in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, including President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare as being constitutional.
“I don’t like the mandate,” Pace said. “I like increasing access to health care and making health insurance more affordable, but I do have some concerns about how it’s paid for and some of the penalties small businesses could face for not complying.
“I don’t think the health care act is perfect by any stretch. I think there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed and it is incumbent on whoever is representing the seat to work in a bipartisan fashion.”
Pace wouldn’t speculate as to whether or not he would have supported Obamacare as one of Colorado’s Congressional representatives.
“I wasn’t there, but if I would have written it, I would have not included the mandate,” he said.
Pace is a native of Connecticut, a graduate of Fort Lewis College in Durango, a married father of three children and has represented House District 46 in the state Legislature since 2008.
He is challenging 3rd Congressional District incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in a race that also features Independent challenger Tisha Casida, of Pueblo.
Pace is in the midst of a seven-day, 23-stop listening tour of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses 29 counties and more than 54,000 square miles of territory/.