Industry reps discuss clean coal in Craig

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Rick Johnson, plant manager at Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station, said he is tired of hearing “coal is dirty,” and “coal-fired electricity is dirty,” in the media.

“Those of you that aren’t local, I hope today, when the sun rose, you looked at the Craig Station and saw how blue the skies are around here,” Johnson said. “This is what we live in day in and day out. …We are proud of the clean energy produced here.”

Johnson was one of six area coal industry representatives who shared their thoughts on new mining technology and management Thursday during Yampa Valley Partners’ Fueling Thought Energy Summit at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion.

Themes of the coal industry forum, moderated by Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, included individual updates on coal mines in the area, facts about coal’s place in clean energy technology, recent legislation concerning coal, and the future of coal.

“Coal is the backbone of our energy security,” Sanderson said. “We have more coal in the United States than all of the energy-producing equivalent oil in the Middle East.”

Ray DuBois, Trapper Mining Company president and general manager, discussed changes that have occurred with the mine in the last four years.

DuBois said Trapper had 165 employees in 2006, and was producing 2 million tons of coal per year. Its expected mine life was to last until 2015.

Today, Trapper has 185 employees, produces 2.3 million tons of coal per year and has expanded its expected mine life to beyond 2023.

DuBois pointed out the growth of Trapper’s mining operations was not affected by a 250-acre landslide

Oct. 8, 2006.

Heavy rains weakened a mudstone layer under the land causing the acreage to slide 400 feet in four hours.

Since the slide, Trapper has constructed several landslide monitoring areas and is working to fine tune alarms that would alert mine management of any land-sliding activity, DuBois said.

Johnson gave a presentation focusing on air quality and the impacts of coal-fired power plants.

“Coal is a much cheaper way to produce electricity than gas,” he said. “Here in Colorado we can do that clean … it’s the business that keeps everybody going.”

In his presentation, Johnson cited several studies from the Environmental Protection Agency. One study determined as the gross domestic product, energy consumption and vehicle miles traveled rose over time from 1980 to 2008, the aggregate emissions from energy development decreased by 54 percent.

He said EPA reports indicate “significant air quality improvements in the last decade and shows how coal-fired power plant emissions have been reduced.”

Juan Garcia, manager of strategic mine planning for Colowyo Coal Co., gave a presentation about highwall mining operations.

The highwall mining techniques Colowyo uses are modeled from techniques implemented on the East Coast, and were the first in the state, Garcia said.

He said the method lets Colowyo recover coal that would otherwise be left in the ground.

Jerry Nettleton, environmental manager for Twentymile Coal Co., gave a presentation about clean coal technology used by Twentymile.

Nettleton said clean coal technologies are the key to lowering emissions from coal.

He outlined the technology used by Twentymile such as supercritical combustion plants and carbon capture and storage technologies.

Nettleton also outlined the safety and environmental awards that Twentymile has received.

Tom Anderson, of the Elk Creek mine located in Delta County, gave a presentation focusing on how Elk Creek works with the land to mine effectively.

He focused on a ventilation shaft and facility recently installed at the mine, which he said helps keep miners safe from methane gas while working.

Greg Schaefer, vice president of external affairs for the west region of Arch Coal, gave a presentation on the West Elk mine located in Somerset.

Schaefer outlined updates the mine has received including new longwall equipment, methane drainage systems, and expanded surface facilities.

He also discussed the recently passed Colorado House Bill 10-1365, which he said could affect the coal industry in Northwest Colorado.

The bill required coal-fired power plants to be retrofitted with emissions-reducing technology or re-powered to be fueled by natural gas or other low energy-emitting sources.

He criticized Denver lawmakers for ignoring the “other low energy-emitting sources” and placing emphasis on natural gas.

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