Matt Winey, Craig resident and Twentymile Coal Co. shift foreman, testifies in front of members of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Monday in Grand Junction. Hundreds of Northwest Colorado coal miners attended the meeting, which allowed for public comment on Xcel’s emission reduction plans pursuant to Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act.

Photo by Brian Smith

Matt Winey, Craig resident and Twentymile Coal Co. shift foreman, testifies in front of members of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Monday in Grand Junction. Hundreds of Northwest Colorado coal miners attended the meeting, which allowed for public comment on Xcel’s emission reduction plans pursuant to Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act.

Moffat County miners protest coal bill

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GRAND JUNCTION — When Craig resident Matt Winey’s name was called on a speaker system Monday night in Grand Junction, he was met with applause, whistling and shouts of encouragement from the audience.

Winey, a shift foreman for Twentymile Coal Co., located east of Craig, knew why he received the applause.

“You might wonder why I got all the applause,” he said speaking to a crowd of hundreds. “It’s (because) I’m just one of the coal miners here. I’m one of the ones … afraid this bill is going to do away with my job.”

Winey was one of several coal miners that spoke to members of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in Grand Junction during a public input session on the fallout from Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act.

The PUC took testimony and comments from about 30 people, mostly Western Slope residents, about Xcel Energy’s emission reduction plans required by the bill.

The bill requires Xcel to submit emission reduction plans for several Front Range power plants 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 reviewed the plans before they were submitted to the PUC for consideration.

The plan seeks to retire 903 megawatts of coal generation at the 186-megawatt Valmont Station and the 717-megawatt Cherokee Station by the end of 2017.

The plan also seeks to re-power the Cherokee Station with 883 megawatts of natural gas generation. Xcel also plans to switch Arapahoe Station’s unit-four with 111 megawatts of natural gas.

The 446-megawatt Hayden Station and the 505-megawatt Pawnee Station will be retrofitted with “modern emission control technology,” according to the release.

The meeting started in the Mesa County Commissioners public hearing room in downtown Grand Junction, but was moved outside when both the hearing room and the room designated for overflowing attendees were both filled.

The PUC heard comments on both sides of the bill, and among the topics most discussed were jobs, energy diversity,

pending federal air quality regulations and the importance of energy jobs to communities.

Chad Day, a longwall utility foreman for Twentymile, testified to the commission about what he thought would happen if Xcel’s emission reduction plan was approved by the PUC.

“(House Bill) 1365 is not a good choice for Northwest Colorado,” he said to the commission. “If you wipe out 300 jobs in Northwest Colorado, you are going to wipe out another six, eight, 10, 12, 20,000 jobs.”

Day also told the commission the effects of the bill will spread far and could force some miners to move.

“We enjoy where we live,” he said. “We don’t want to move, and nobody wants to go anywhere. You take this bill and you put it into effect, you are looking for bigger troubles than you want.”

Day said two buses filled with coal miners who worked for Twentymile were taken to Grand Junction so the miners could voice their opinions, in addition to about 60 people who drove on their own.

Day estimated about 300 coal miners from the Western Slope attended the meeting — a number he said was encouraging.

“We figured that is was something that needed to be taken care of and try to get it bit in the butt before it goes through,” he said. “And get these guys thinking that maybe they’re screwed up in the head.”

Jack Reed, a Twentymile utility foreman, asked the PUC to send someone to Northwest Colorado to “see what you guys are going to ruin if you let this go through.”

After his testimony, Reed said he thought it was great to see so many coal miners were interested in voicing their opinion about what the future of coal might be.

“What people may not realize is … these guys are down here on their own time,” he said of the numerous coal miners at the meeting. “They are not getting paid to do this. We believe in our future, and we want to do something about it.”

Reed said he didn’t think the PUC expected all of the coal miners to show up, or that moving the meeting outside would be needed.

Jeff Comstock, Moffat County Natural Resources Director and Club 20 chairman, also testified.

Moffat County Commissioners Audrey Danner, Tom Gray and Tom Mathers attended the meeting, but did not testify to the PUC.

The PUC has scheduled evidentiary hearings in Denver on the proposed plan from Oct. 21 through Nov. 3.

A second public comment hearing is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 23 at the PUC building in Denver. The PUC is required to issue a decision on the plans by Dec. 15.

Comments

McGruber 4 years, 3 months ago

Why cant the coal just be sold to other plants? It seems to me that the demand for coal is not going away anytime soon?

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justthefacts 4 years, 3 months ago

Good job coal miners!!! Someone has to stand up for your jobs, and your industry.

Fact: The Moffat County Commissioners also attended, they diid............NOTHING!!!!

Fact: The Moffat County Commissioners could have testified that when coal miners loose their jobs, an exponential number of other jobs in the community will be lost.

Fact: The Commissioners said......... NOTHING!!!!

Fact: The County Commissioners did send a letter when 10-1365 was being considered at the Capital.

Fact: The Commissioners could not find the time to attend the hearings themselves.

Question: When a job is lost how many people are affected ? How many people are in a family? How will lost families affect schools,and $43 million hospitals that need to be paid for. What about those employees. ( The Commissioners could find nothing to talk about????)

Fact: Moffat County voters keep electing Commissioners that are Cowboys, and are only concerned with their livelihood, the ag industry.

Fact: In comparison, the ag industry is a minor industry to energy in Moffat County. ( Based on number of jobs, and dollars to the community.) Many ag people are only able to make ag work because they also work in the energy industry.

Just The Facts of what keeps Moffat County Running

p.s. It is not your tried and true Commissioners!!!!!

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Rude 4 years, 3 months ago

The main point is that these want to be Californians on the Front Range are trying use coal as a scapegoat. The real reason for the brown cloud is the motor traffic. This has been proven with tests in the 90's when natural gas was used for a time to power the power plants and it made NO difference in the Front Range pollution.

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mocoobserve 4 years, 3 months ago

Before posting "facts" about where your commissioners earn their livlihoods please do your research and find out where their livlihood actually comes from.

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selket42 4 years, 3 months ago

I would like to know where people got the idea that natural gas production is somehow more benign to the environment than coal. Just take a drive from Rifle to Debeque and look at the landscape or read what the people of the Grand Valley are dealing with. Tainted wells, chemical contamination of the air from benzene, just the general destruction of land and views by the drilling and the pipelines and the huge compressor stations. They have tried to hide them by painting them and "natural" brown, but the whole valley is a mess. How is that better than an underground mine that takes up maybe 25-40 acres of surface ground that can be reclaimed to a nearly natural state when the mine is finally done? The front range doesn't have to see the damage done on the western slope by the natural gas industry so it must be better than coal....how about the big cities try converting to solar first...then when they have done that to off-set the energy from the coal fired powerplants, the mines can be phased out.

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NewMommy 4 years, 3 months ago

I was there and I would like to point out that the Moffat County Commissioners were there to suppor their county and could not testify at the hearing because Moffat County is party to the lawsuit against House Bill 1365. Please get your "facts" straight before you start running your mouth!

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taxslave 4 years, 3 months ago

The protests will fail and the jobs will be lost.

Next up.....the Ag Industry. Have you read the new "dust" law?

Until these abomonations in office are removed it's only going to get worse.....much worse. Have you ever asked yourself, "Who are these people who will screw us at every turn?" Did we really elect any of them to do what it is they're doing? Again, who are they? The tares, that's who.

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