Moffat County continues to fight coal bill

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner said the county’s response to the passing of Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, may “just seem like phone calls and meetings.”

But, Danner contends the commission’s recent attempts to voice concerns about the bill’s impacts will make a difference.

“I believe it will, and I have to work on it and proceed as if it will make a difference to our community,” she said. “Doing nothing is not an option. We must respond and this is part of doing our job, to respond effectively.”

The commission, Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado and other area counties are pushing to have input into the review periods of the emissions reduction plan required by the bill, AGNC executive director Aron Diaz said.

The bill requires some Front Range power plants to submit emission reduction plans that “give primary consideration to replacing or re-powering coal-fired electric generators with natural gas and to also consider other low-emitting resources including energy efficiency,” according to the bill.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Quality Control Commission is in the process of reviewing plans before they are submitted to the Public Utilities Commission for consideration.

The county commission signed an AGNC petition in late June requesting the Air Quality Control Commission allow public input on the emission reduction plans. That request was denied July 15, Diaz said.

“They have been trying to hide everything that is going in to the drafting of the plan, and so when we say, ‘We think your air quality regulations are too high,’ they can say, ‘No, our research says it is not,’” Diaz said. “How are we supposed to confront that?”

Diaz said AGNC attorneys are considering appealing the Air Quality Control Commission’s petition denial. AGNC is also continuing to update local governments about the possibility of getting public input into the emission reduction plans, Diaz said.

The Air Quality Control Commission is finalizing emissions reduction plans from Xcel Energy and Black Hills Power, two utilities affected by the bill.

Diaz expects the plans to be submitted to the Public Utilities Commission today.

When the Public Utilities Commission receives the plans, AGNC will have an opportunity to review and comment on them, with the input of local governments, Diaz said.

“But, we are not sure how much flexibility there will be to redesign the plan,” he said.

County Commissioner Tom Mathers said he hopes to convey to the Public Utilities Commission that coal is “a big industry for our community,” and jobs could be lost because of the bill.

“I’m going to tell them, ‘Look, these are our jobs,’” he said. “This is our community, we need these jobs. Coal mining jobs are forever.”

Mathers said he is upset local governments were not included in the discussion when H.B. 10-1365 was being drafted, and now the county commission is “fighting for jobs.”

“They didn’t take any consideration to how it affected local areas where we need the coal production,” he said.

Danner said the county commission has been talking with other counties, state agencies and legislators about what impacts there may be to the area because of the emission reduction plans.

“Then we can decide what our options are in the future to respond to this legislation,” Danner said.

Diaz said he feels “opinions are already biased against” AGNC’s efforts to comment on the plans.

Commissioner Tom Gray said he was disappointed to hear the Air Quality Control Commission denied the AGNC petition to comment on the plans in July, and said he hoped the Public Utilities Commission considered the impacts of the plans to Northwest Colorado.

“How are they going to do that unless an analysis is done of those impacts and brought forward either by a third party or those communities?” he said. “Someone needs to do, in my mind, an analysis of the impacts to all communities.”

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