Craig resident Frank Moe said it was humbling to sit in a room full of well-paid specialists and lawyers Thursday in Denver.
However, after sitting through about four hours of presentations, graphs and slides regarding proposed emission controls at Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s coal-fired Craig Station, Frank realized there was something missing.
“I said, ‘In all of the pictures and all of the slides we have seen, you have forgotten something … none of the slides or pictures have shown the people of Northwest Colorado and how your decisions affect us,’” he said. “We feel like we talk, but we don’t know if anybody listens.”
Frank and his wife, Kerry, were joined by several other Northwest Colorado residents Thursday in Denver during public comment sessions hosted by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s Air Quality Control Commission.
The group provided comment about a state initiative aiming to install new emission control technology at the 1,300-megawatt Craig Station power plant.
The AQCC was faced with making a decision between two technologies with different price tags and each supported by two different sides of the issue — Tri-State and a coalition of environmental groups.
The AQCC gave preliminary approval to a plan for the plant Friday, said Paul Tourangeau, Director of the Air Pollution Control Division.
Instead of installing a certain technology on all three of Craig Station’s units, the AQCC approved, 9-0, a compromise, of sorts, between both technologies, Tourangeau said.
The plan would install cheaper selective non-catalytic reduction technologies, or SNCR, on units one and three at Tri-State and install the more expensive selective catalytic reduction technologies, or SCR, on unit two, he said.
However, those plans are subject to review and final approval by the AQCC in early January, Tourangeau said. Ultimately, the plan would need a state legislative review before being sent to the federal level.
Tri-State spokesman Brad Jones said the company supports the AQCC’s approved plan.
However, Jones said he could not speak on behalf of the other companies that own parts of the Craig Station.
Jones said Tri-State would need to complete a cost analysis of the new plan to determine what the AQCC’s plans would cost.
The emission controls were proposed in response to a proposed 60-year federal program which hopes to reduce visibility impairments in the country’s national parks and wilderness areas, Jones said.
Tri-State originally supported installing the SNCR technologies that would have equipped the Craig Station with about $40 million in upgrades and would have reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by about 15 percent.
However, the environmental coalition asked that SCR be installed, which could have reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent. That technology, however, came with a $660 million price tag.
Frank said Tuesday he was pleased with the AQCC’s decision, adding that he thought those who testified from Northwest Colorado made a significant impression on the commission.
He thinks the AQCC’s plan was the “best thing that we could do for our community.”
“As long as it is economically feasible for Tri-State to keep our people employed, I think it is a great compromise and that is what we were looking for,” he said. “I think that is what we have been missing out on, even with stuff like (Colorado House Bill 10-) 1365.”
Frank said he questioned why environmentalists pushed for $660 million technologies during his Thursday testimony in favor of the state’s cheaper proposal.
“Is their true purpose to make it so expensive that Tri-State would look at the plant and go, ‘Is it worth us continuing it? Can we make a profit off of this?’” he said.
But, Frank said he told the commission where his allegiance rested.
“I said, ‘I’ll tell you who I trust, I trust Tri-State because they have proven to be good economic partners in our community when they have made commitments to clean up their plant and do environmental stuff,’” he said.
Kerry said she and Frank don’t like public speaking, but will do it when they feel passionate enough about something.
“We love this area … and I feel like we are systematically being attacked by these environmental groups,” she said.
Moreover, proponents of the high cost controls are just trying to be “politically energy fashionable by trying to destroy our coal industry without any thought as to the science behind it,” she said.
Darcy Trask, Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership director, attended and testified before the commission.
Trask said she presented the commission with about 20 letters of support for the state’s plan from local businesses and organizations.
“Our business community really stepped up to the plate in support of Tri-State,” she said.
Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner also testified Thursday in Denver. She said she thinks Tri-State is “willing to be part of the solution,” but made clear that power plants were not the only source of visual haze.
Danner said Tuesday she is supporting the AQCC’s ruling on the matter.
“I will follow Tri-State’s lead on this because this is their business,” she said. “It is my job to help support those key businesses.”