Two Colorado coal plants and one mine will be shut down as part of an effort by federal and state regulators and environmentalists to improve visibility at national parks and other areas of the state.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a rural cooperative utility, will shutter its 100 megawatt Nucla Station coal plant and the coal mine that feeds it by 2022 as part of a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and the environmental group WildEarth Guardians.
Tri-State will also shutter a 427 megawatt unit at the Craig Station coal plant. Tri-State determined it would be more cost-effective to shutter the coal plants than retrofit them with costly emissions control equipment.
But in doing so, environmental crusaders have crushed a major source of employment for small towns in rural Colorado, sparking concerns they could be on the edge of regional economic depression.
Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid is worried about the economic future of his home town.
“The decision to decommission Unit 1 at Craig Station hurts us and I’m still very angry about it,” Kinkaid told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“We can’t afford any more of this insanity,” he said.
Craig Station, however, isn’t expected to result in any serious job losses, so Kinkaid is optimistic they’ll weather the regulatory storm. But Nucla may not be so lucky, as the town just lost a major source of high-paying jobs.
Closing the Nucla coal plant in Montrose County will impact 55 power plant workers and 28 miners. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s a big concern for a country of just 40,000 people with a poverty rate of more than 10 percent.
The Denver Post notes that “mining and utilities pay the second and third highest weekly wages, double or nearly double the overall average,” in Montrose County.
WildEarth Guardians, the environmental group ultimately responsible for the closings, was thrilled at the new agreement, saying it would cut more than 5 million tons of carbon dioxide every year along with 7,000 tons of haze-and smog-forming emissions.
The Guardians initially sued to have stricter emissions controls put on the Craig and Nucla coal plants in order to improve visibility at national parks. They got a favorable settlement in 2014, and now are celebrating the closure of more coal-fired plants.
It was only last summer that WildEarth Guardian’s spokesman Jeremy Nichols said “tough shit” during last summer’s legal proceedings on the future of the coal plants.
Basically, Montrose County lost dozens of jobs so tourists might be able to get a better view of national parks and Colorado’s natural wonders.
The EPA and others say coal plants are a major source of regional haze, which impairs visibility, but natural sources like fires also contribute a lot to haze. Recent visibility issues in Colorado actually stemmed from wildfires in New Mexico and Arizona, not coal plants.
Will Yeatman, a senior fellow at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), has been a major critic of environmentalists using regional haze regulations to shut down coal plants. Yeatman’s work has shown such rules come with a huge price and make virtually no difference in visibility.
Arkansas recently got hit with an EPA-mandated regional haze plan, or FIP, that Yeatman says will cost a lot of money and make virtually no difference in visibility. He said similar things about Colorado’s haze plan, or SIP.
“For the Arkansas FIP, I have modeled the results, and there would be zero visibility improvement, at a ratepayer cost of almost $200 million annually for 30 years,” Yeatman told TheDCNF.
“The Colorado SIP and the Arkansas FIP are merely the latest all pain, no-gain manifestations of one of the least known but worst regulatory programs of the Obama era,” he said.
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