Colorado coal industry representatives plan to increase lobbying after tough year |

Colorado coal industry representatives plan to increase lobbying after tough year

Mike Lawrence

Instrumentation specialist Gary Lyons repairs a control panel at Hayden Station, the coal-fired power plant in west Routt County. Coal industry representatives are planning to increase lobbying and education efforts to raise politicians' awareness of coal's impacts on Colorado jobs and economies.
John F. Russell

Stuart Sanderson said Wednesday that coal representatives, to an extent, could have themselves to blame for impacts from legislation adopted last year that has coal and mining industries in an uproar.

Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said part of the problem is a lack of education — particularly at the Capitol in Denver.

"The lawmakers did not have sufficient knowledge of our industry and thus did not take into consideration the seriously harmful impacts that HB 1365 is going to have — and it's going to hit Routt County right between the eyes," Sanderson said Wednesday, citing potential impacts to local employment and tax revenues.

Last year's House Bill 1365, known as the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, sets emission-reduction standards to be met by 2017 and would, among other actions, convert or shut down some coal-fired Front Range power plants in favor of natural gas.

In the wake of the legislation, which spurred weeks of contentious Colorado Public Utilities Commission hearings in late 2010, Sanderson said the coal and mining industries are significantly increasing their focus on outreach, education and awareness in 2011.

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"I think you're going to see a much more active mining industry in the future," he said. "The mining industry definitely needs to do more, there's no question about it."

That could mean anything from lobbying to more TV advertising — such as the promotions that air on FSN during Colorado Rockies games — to encouraging visits from legislators.

"Obviously, there is a need to hold events and try … to encourage lawmakers to visit these mines," Sanderson said. "We'll be working with our members and scheduling things in Northwest Colorado."

What it doesn't mean, however, is participation in Yampa Valley Partners' annual Energy Summit, which for the past four years has brought representatives from a variety of energy industries — primarily coal, oil and gas — to Craig for a multiday event. Kate Nowak, Yampa Valley Partners' executive director, told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday that the summit won't occur in 2011.

"With the advent of HB 1365, the coal folks have decided to pull out of the Energy Summit and do their own conference in 2011," she said. "Talking about having an energy summit in our area without coal didn't seem to make sense."

She told the council that coal representatives "see this as the beginning of the end." She elaborated on that comment Wednesday.

"The coal folks are feeling attacked right now, and they've said as much to me," Nowak said.

She said a committee of industry representatives from regional energy companies, power plants and mines is working to form plans for upcoming coal-promoting events. A member of that committee confirmed those intentions Wednesday but declined to speak on the record.

Sanderson had harsh words for the outgoing administration of Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, which he said took a "command and control" approach to energy policy.

"We're hoping that the (John) Hickenlooper administration will take a more balanced approach," Sanderson said.

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