However, production in Moffat County dropped by 542,000 tons in 2003. As production numbers fell so did mining jobs, which dropped from 376 in 2002 to 362 in 2003.
Representatives of Colowyo Coal Company and Trapper Mining Company could not be reached for comment. But most of the coal those mines excavate is shipped to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and
Jim Van Soboren, public relations spokesman for that company, said Craig Power Station's electric production was the same as always, despite the drop in coal production.
Moffat County managed to produce the third-highest amount of coal of any Colorado county, following Gunnison and Routt.
Northwest Colorado produces the majority of Colorado's coal, said Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association. He said 2004 is shaping up to be a good year for coal, and expects to see increases in productivity across Colorado.
As the price of natural gas rises, coal has once again become an attractive fuel for utility companies, Sanderson said. Colorado coal is especially appealing because it has high BTUs but low amounts of sulfur, making it a clean, efficient fuel.
States as far east as Kentucky have been importing Colorado coal to mix with their own local coal, which is often high in sulfur, in order to meet federal emissions standards, Sanderson said.
These factors have combined to make Colorado the fastest growing coal producer in the country. The state moved from eighth to seventh place in production last year, and Sanderson said the state has a good chance of catching Montana to become number six this year.
Only four years ago, Colorado was the 11th highest coal producer in the country.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at email@example.com.