Guiding lights: Energy, environmental reps react to Romney’s energy views
Reaction from energy industry representatives to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's speech Tuesday in Craig was largely positive.
Appearing in downtown Craig, Romney said his administration would create an energy policy that utilizes all of America’s natural resources, including coal, natural gas and oil.
It was a message Colorado Mining Association President Stuart Sanderson appreciated hearing.
“I liked the points that he hammered away on (about) reaching our full potential through the development of natural resources, taking into account the struggles the local communities like Craig are experiencing as a result of the burden of national regulations, not to mention state regulations, although he certainly could speak considerably about those,” Sanderson said.
“His remarks today provided reassurance that his administration would take a look at traditional sources of energy that basically power our economy and provide important jobs.”
Forrest Luke, environmental manager at Trapper Mining Company in Craig, said there's a big difference between what he heard from Romney on Tuesday and the regulations mines have endured under President Barack Obama.
In Obama’s tenure, Luke said Trapper Mine has been affected by more stringent Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions, mercury emissions and cross-state air pollution rules.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say the Obama administration is trying to put us out of business and they’ve acknowledged it,” Luke said. “Most of the damage is coming from un-elected bureaucrats within the EPA, and I’d like to see some of the federal bureaucracies reigned in.”
Jim Van Someren, communications manager for Westminster-based Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Inc., echoed similar concerns with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule.
“Basically, MATS is taking coal off the table,” Van Someren said. “The technology simply doesn’t exist to meet the standards they are proposing in this rule.”
Tri-State, a wholesale power supplier owned by its 44-member cooperatives located in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming, operates Craig Station.
Although 72-percent of Tri-State’s baseload is produced by coal-fired power plants like Craig Station, approximately 14-percent of the company’s power is generated by renewables.
Thirteen percent of that renewable energy comes from hydroelectric dams, but Tri-State also operates a 51-megawatt wind farm in eastern Colorado, a 30-megawatt solar plant in New Mexico and recently signed a contract to construct another 67-megawatt wind farm by the end of the year.
“We have a pretty robust renewable portfolio, which is getting stronger all of the time,” Van Someren said. “But our board’s philosophy is that it has to be a balanced portfolio. Going 100-percent renewable is not feasible.”
Pat Sollars, vice-president and general manager of Colorado operations for Peabody Energy, said anyone needing more proof of the important role coal plays in job creation and providing affordable energy need look no further than California’s model for energy production.
“Approximately two-thirds of Colorado’s energy comes from coal and coal-fired power plants,” Sollars said. “In California, only 1 percent of their energy is produced by coal.
“We have 30-percent lower energy costs than they do, a stronger economy and it’s all because of coal.”
However, there were differing views on Romney's energy policies Tuesday.
Luke Schafer, Western Slope campaign coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition, released a statement shortly after the campaign rally stating his opposition to any plan that forces a choice between resource development and conservation.
“The argument that we can have development or conservation — not both — is a false choice,” Schafer said in the release.
“Development of our natural resources can happen in a responsible manner that doesn’t unduly harm our air, water, wildlife and quality of life. To think otherwise is a defeatist attitude contrary to the custom and culture of communities like Craig.”
Schafer also argued that while it’s easy to talk about energy in economic terms, it’s easy to forget about revenue and jobs that rely on conservation.
“Moffat County annually sees over $30 million in economic impact and over 300 jobs derived from hunting, fishing and wildlife watching,” he said in the release.
“Coloradans don’t want to hear more rhetoric or false choices. We want our leaders to find solutions that ensure that our wonderful state can be enjoyed by future generations.”
“We hear the anti-coal forces and those who oppose resource development in this country, we hear them talk about balanced energy,” he said. “I’m not sure what they mean by balanced energy. If that means having the government come in as it did on (Colorado) House Bill 1365 and give segments of markets to the natural gas industry, I think that that is not a good vision for America’s future.”
In spite of the energy debate, which is likely to be at the forefront of the presidential campaign through Election Day, many top GOP officials were impressed with the show Craig and Moffat County helped stage.
Ryan Call, Colorado Republican Party chairman, was delighted with the turnout from local residents and called the event “simply exceptional.”
“I think (Craig and Moffat County) voters realize there is a lot at stake and that the issues truly do transcend party lines.” Call said. “There was an energy and enthusiasm from the crowd you just don’t see all the time at these political events.”