Commission discusses legislation, coal industry
County officials consider effects state, federal bills could have on local energy economy
March 16, 2010
In other action
At its regular Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:
• Approved, 3-0, warrant resolutions for the month of February totaling $669,842.66.
• Approved, 3-0, a contract with Soilogic Inc. for construction materials testing for the swinging bridge rehabilitation project.
• Approved, 3-0, a sand and gravel lease expansion of 30.63 acres with Ann and Nick Charchalis for extracting sand and gravel from the property for the number 2 Lyons Pit.
• Approved, 3-0, a letter of support for the Mustang Club to apply for a Gates Family Foundation grant for the relocation of the former Union Pacific train depot and a wild horse park at the Wyman Museum.
• Approved, 3-0, a monthly treasurer’s report.
• Approved, 3-0, a conditional use permit for Northwest Aggregates Construction Company for a gravel mining pit.
• Approved, 3-0, a personnel requisition from Jo Reed, of the human resources department, for two part-time crisis intervention specialists positions for the Youth Services Department.
• Approved, 3-0, an agreement with Bank of the West to provide the county with new commercial credit cards.
• Heard an update from Marie Peer of the social services department. Reviewed and approved January minutes and a community service block grant agreement. Presented a 2009 annual report, monthly reports. Discussed Medicaid.
• Approved, 3-0, a weed partnership agreement with Colorado Northwestern Community College in lieu of requested funds.
• Heard a teleconference presentation with David Lock of Tri-State Generation & Transmission to discuss carbon legislative initiatives.
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray thinks the local coal industry is being placed in the crosshairs of potential federal and state legislation aimed at reducing energy related emissions.
"Its not a trend I'd like to see start or continue," he said.
At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission discussed current legislation passing through Congress concerning clean energy, energy efficiency and reducing global warming in a teleconference call with David Lock, of Tri-State Generation & Transmission.
Lock discussed U.S. House Resolution 2454, which seeks to create renewable energy standards and efficiencies that require electricity suppliers to make 20 percent of their electric supply from renewable sources by 2020.
Such renewable sources would include wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels and hydropower.
Although Gray said he is for a clean environment, he is concerned about the effects such a bill would have on Moffat County's coal industry and energy consumers' pocket books.
He said that legislation trying to reduce carbon and other energy related emissions could reduce the amount of coal that will be mined and burned.
Less demand for coal could lead to local coal mines turning production down.
"We're in a situation because we are heavily fossil fuel dependent, especially coal, on our economy," Gray said. "Not only would our consumers have those higher utility bills, but we would have less jobs. There is significant number of employees in Moffat County that get up every morning and drive off to a coal mine to go to work."
Fewer local jobs might affect the local economy, and it is a "tax on our economy I'm not sure we can bear right now," Gray said.
"Let's not penalize our country and society when other countries are not setting these high standards and are going to out produce us," he said. "All the industrial output that other countries can do, they can do it far cheaper than we are.
"If we penalize ourselves by adding costs not only to the industrial production, but also to agricultural production, it adds costs to the consumers' standard of living."
The commission also discussed a state bill introduced Monday to the House that would require Xcel Energy, Colorado's largest power supplier, and Black Hills Corp., to reduce the air pollutants of some Front Range coal fired power plants.
Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also called the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, could require some Front Range plants to be replaced or retrofitted to be fueled by natural gas, or other low energy emitting sources.
Twentymile Coal Co., which is located in Routt County but employs many Moffat County residents, supplies coal to "at least one plant on the Front Range," Gray said and could be affected by legislation.
Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said the bill could "foreclose" the Colorado coal industry.
"We are being taken out of the picture in favor of a fuel that is less reliable, that is less abundant, is vastly more expensive and vastly more volatile than coal and that is natural gas," he said. Natural gas is "three to four times the cost and 20 times the volatility."
Sanderson said the bill is "not good for electricity consumers and it's not good for Northwest Colorado."
"They need to slow down and take a careful look at what they're doing here," he said. "It makes absolutely no sense to cease using our most abundant and most affordable and reliable fuel for electricity generation and replace it with fuel that costs 300 percent more — natural gas."
Pam Kiely, program director for Environment Colorado and proponent of the bill said in a news release, "this is a bold win for clear skies and a cleaner energy future."
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said he thinks Xcel energy has alternative motives for switching to natural gas.
"Xcel Energy has always been more or less a green company anyway," he said. "They've been talking for sometime about going to natural gas. I think all this is, is if they get a bill passed saying they need to go to natural gas, then they get paid back for all the money they put in that.
"They are doing it for the dollar."
Brian Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com.