Organizers confirm Craig coal conference

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Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, contends the public doesn’t fully understand the intricacies of the state’s mining industry.

“I think there is much that is not understood about our industry and it is interesting because Colorado has undergone such incredible demographic changes in the last decade and a half — increases in population (and) political transformations,” he said. “I think we face an even bigger challenge on the Front Range where people have no idea that there is even a mining industry in this state.”

That’s all the more reason Sanderson is pleased to see the return of something that was once a staple of the coal industry — a large, annual coal and power generation conference.

“This is certainly a significant event,” he said. “I think the conference will return to the roots of an industry that has been sustaining Northwest Colorado for more than a century.”

Forrest Luke, Trapper Mining Co. environmental manager, confirmed Monday the 2011 Colorado Coal and Power Generation Conference will be hosted May 18, 19 and 20 in Craig.

According to an invitation for the conference, the event will focus on the state of coal and related power generation sectors, new developments, legislation, regulation and “economic challenges and opportunities.”

Luke, who is a member of the event’s planning committee, said details of the conference are not final, but it would include several speakers and guest panels, as well as tours of Trapper Mine and Tri-Station Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station. He also said the conference would likely include representatives of neighboring state and in-state coal mines and power plants.

The event will be open to the public, but there will be an entry fee, he said.

“It should be a good conference,” Luke said. “We have some really good speakers lined up.”

In early January, Yampa Valley Partners Director Kate Nowak announced the organization would no longer host its annual Energy Summit, which included a variety of energy-producing industries.

The cancellation, she said, stemmed from the coal industry’s intention to host its own, private conference — a decision Luke said had little to do with the relationship between his industry and oil and gas companies.

“We have no concerns with the oil and gas industry,” he said. “We just kind of felt we wanted to focus a little bit more on our own conference.”

Luke said the committee wants to host an event similar to previous coal conferences hosted by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado. There haven’t been any similar conferences in the area for about three or four years, he said.

“It is always great to get together as an industry and take a look at what is going on in the industry and kind of catch up a little bit,” he said.

Moreover, the event is focused on educating decision makers on the coal and power generation industries, Luke said.

“I think one of the things that has kind of been missing … is the opportunity we have to show decision makers and legislators what we do here in Northwest Colorado,” he said. “I think unless they come out and see it, they have a hard time envisioning coal mining and power generation and some of the other things that we do.”

The CMA and the coal industry in general, Sanderson said, have been working toward being more proactive for sometime.

He said the CMA recently started a television public information campaign that has reached 3 million people and had a 70-percent approval rating, he said.

“They said they understood more, they felt the statements in the ads were credible and that it had a positive impact on their impression about the coal and mining industry,” Sanderson said of the campaign.

The conference is an extension of that goal to be proactive with not only legislators but also with the public in general in hopes of avoiding hurtful legislation and regulation, Sanderson said.

“I think we are talking about education on the ground and working to inform local communities and citizens throughout the state and I think it is going to be a tall order,” he said.

Brian Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or briansmith@craigdailypress.com.

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