Craig U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., was in Moffat County on Wednesday and toured Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association's Craig Station as part of his energy outreach tour, a yearlong project highlighting Colorado’s top-tier energy innovation and comprehensive energy portfolio.
“I’m practical,” Udall said about how he developed his “all of the above” philosophy on energy production. “I live in a world of facts and technology, and as a state, we have to balance the needs of the public with environmental concerns using the technologies we have.”
During his tour, Udall surveyed the multiple upgrades and environmental protection measures in place at the coal-fired, 1,283-megawatt plant and an innovative carbon project being spearheaded there.
“Any technology, no matter how old or new, can be innovative,” Udall said. “What’s being done here — finding ways to incorporate new ideas and technology into an existing system — is a great example of that.”
Craig Station recently underwent a $34 million upgrade to its turbines, allowing the plant to use less operating energy while at the same time producing an additional 54 MW of energy.
The plant also is in the midst of a $300 million project to install new carbon dioxide scrubbers to reduce emissions from the plant.
“I do have concerns about carbon emissions,” Udall said. “Which is why carbon capture and the program being developed here are so important.”
The focus of the Craig Station program is carbon use, as opposed to carbon capture, and the practical and economically advantageous applications to which the surplus carbon could be applied.
The plant already sells fly ash from Unit 1 and Unit 2 to cement companies as a strengthening agent. That program alone generates an additional $1 million in revenue for the company.
Udall also addressed concerns about how the new state energy policy, with its stricter environmental standards and mandate for a higher percentage of energy production to come from renewable sources, will impact Moffat County’s economy and job market.
“There have been several studies done here in Moffat County, and they show that Craig Station is the No. 3 employer here,” Craig Station Manager Rick Johnson said. “Think for a moment what would happen to the community if this plant weren’t here.”
Johnson pointed out the trickle-down impact that a faltering energy economy would create: Craig Station buys all of the coal from both the Trapper and Colowyo mines. Those operations would suffer without business from the power plant, with lower production demands possibly leading to job losses.
“If all those workers and their families moved away, would we need such a big school district? Would we need such a large county government?” Johnson asked.
Tri-State employs almost 300 people in Moffat County, as does the school district.
“Those statistics speak loudly to Moffat County’s economic base and how central energy is to the area,” Udall said. “When making these policy decisions and decisions about technology, you can’t pick winners or losers. There is no perfect technology. You have to look at what works best for the public and for all of the other concerns involved.”
Udall agreed that a practical energy policy wouldn’t push regulation beyond the capabilities of available technology, crippling the energy sector with an unattainable emission standard.
“This is an important part of our energy mix,” Udall said. “I would never suggest we go to a system that would alienate Moffat County.”
Andie Tessler can be reached at 970-875-1793 or atessler@CraigDailyPress.com