Romney says he supports all natural resources during Craig speech
May 30, 2012
May 29, 2012: Routt County Republicans meet Mitt Romney
May 29, 2012: 2,000 turn out for Romney’s speech in Craig
May 29, 2012: Romney’s speech in Craig rallies behind GOP ideals
May 29, 2012: Romney holds Craig business roundtable
Craig — Reaction from energy industry representatives to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's speech Tuesday in Craig largely was positive.
At a public event, Romney said his administration would create an energy policy that utilizes all of America's natural resources, including coal, natural gas and oil.
It was a message Colorado Mining Association President Stuart Sanderson appreciated hearing.
"I liked the points that he hammered away on (about) reaching our full potential through the development of natural resources, taking into account the struggles the local communities like Craig are experiencing as a result of the burden of national regulations, not to mention state regulations," Sanderson said. "His remarks (Tuesday) provided reassurance that his administration would take a look at traditional sources of energy that basically power our economy and provide important jobs."
Jim Van Someren — communications manager for Westminster-based Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, which operates the Craig Station power plant — expressed concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule.
"Basically, MATS is taking coal off the table," Van Someren said. "The technology simply doesn't exist to meet the standards they are proposing in this rule."
Although 72 percent of Tri-State's energy is produced by coal-fired power plants like Craig Station, about 14 percent of the company's power is generated by renewable sources, according to the company.
"We have a pretty robust renewable portfolio, which is getting stronger all of the time," Van Someren said. "But our board's philosophy is that it has to be a balanced portfolio. Going 100 percent renewable is not feasible."
Pat Sollars — vice president and general manager of Colorado operations for Peabody Energy, which operates Twentymile Mine in Routt County — said anyone who needs more proof of the important role coal plays in job creation and providing affordable energy should look no further than California.
"Approximately two-thirds of Colorado's energy comes from coal and coal-fired power plants," Sollars said. "In California, only 1 percent of their energy is produced by coal. We have 30 percent lower energy costs than they do, a stronger economy, and it's all because of coal."
However, there were differing views on Romney's energy policies Tuesday.
Luke Schafer, Western Slope campaign coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition, released a statement shortly after the campaign rally stating his opposition to any plan that forces a choice between resource development and conservation.
"The argument that we can have development or conservation — not both — is a false choice," Schafer wrote in the release. "Development of our natural resources can happen in a responsible manner that doesn't unduly harm our air, water, wildlife and quality of life. To think otherwise is a defeatist attitude contrary to the custom and culture of communities like Craig."
Schafer also argued that while it's easy to talk about energy in economic terms, it's easy to forget about revenue and jobs that rely on conservation.
"Moffat County annually sees over $30 million in economic impact and over 300 jobs derived from hunting, fishing and wildlife watching," he wrote in the release.
Despite the energy debate, which is likely to be at the forefront of the presidential campaign, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call was delighted with the turnout by area residents and called the event "simply exceptional."
"I think (Craig and Moffat County) voters realize there is a lot at stake and that the issues truly do transcend party lines." Call said. "There was an energy and enthusiasm from the crowd you just don't see all the time at these political events."