Craig, Moffat County officials support Tri-State proposal |

Craig, Moffat County officials support Tri-State proposal

Brian Smith

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said he knows what the result of an environmental coalition's proposal for emission control technologies at a local power plant would be.

It's a job killer, he contends.

Gray was speaking about an environmental coalition's counter-proposal to a state initiative aiming to build new emission control technologies at Tri-State Generation & Transmission's Craig Station.

The state's proposal for controls is in response to a proposed 60-year federal program, which hopes to reduce visibility impairments in the country's national parks and wilderness areas, Tri-State spokesman Brad Jones said.

Tri-State supports the state's proposal, which would likely put in place new technologies to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide emissions released from the coal-fired Craig Station, Jones said.

The state proposal is being countered by a group of environmental organizations, which have proposed different and more expensive technologies to be installed at the power plant, Jones said.

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At its regular Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission approved, 3-0, to sign a resolution supporting the state proposal for the cheaper emission control technologies at the Craig Station.

The Craig City Council also approved, 6-0, signing a similar resolution supporting the state's proposal at its Tuesday meeting.

The state's proposal would equip the Craig Station with selective non-catalytic reduction technologies, or SNCR, at a one-time price of about $40 million and an annual operating cost of $10 million, Jones said.

The technologies would need to be installed by 2018.

The SNCR technologies would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from the Craig Station by about 15 percent, in addition to the current emission control technologies already in place at the 1,300-megawatt power plant, Jones said.

But, the environmental coalition — which includes the Sierra Club, Environment Colorado and the Colorado Environmental Coalition, among others — is proposing something different.

The coalition is asking that selective catalytic reduction technology, or SCR, which could reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent, be installed at the power plant. The technology comes with a $660 million price tag, Jones said.

"If this is about visibility standards and this $40 million plan meets the standards, and there are no health impacts that we are talking about here, this just looks like another incremental hit at coal, and it's a job killer," Gray said.

Dave Lock, Tri-State governmental relations senior manager, outlined Tuesday the state's proposal and Tri-State's support of that plan to the county commission.

Lock said the more expensive technology would reduce nitrogen oxide levels more, but visibility wouldn't necessarily be impacted.

"We are saying it doesn't make sense to spend another $600 million dollars on control equipment that is not going to obtain your goal for improving visibility," Lock said.

Gray asked Lock why the environmental coalition wanted the more expensive technologies installed at the plant.

"I think they are always going for the maximum amount of reductions you can get," Lock said. "The SCR, the more expensive equipment, would reduce (nitrogen oxide) emissions further than the SNCR. If it were for health reasons, maybe that would make sense.

"But, the air quality folks have agreed with us that by installing the less expensive equipment, we are going to reach their visibility targets."

Commissioner Tom Mathers asked how it would impact Tri-State if they were forced to install the $660 million technologies.

"Obviously, it would have a tremendous impact to our rates," Lock said. "We haven't sat down and tried to figure those out, but it would definitely have an impact on our rates."

Commissioner Audrey Danner asked Jones why Tri-State is attempting to secure the support of local governments.

Jones said it would be good for state regulators and lawmakers to hear from "outside, credible organizations."

"Certainly they may have already had their minds made up, but in our eyes it is certainly beneficial to go out and recruit support for the state's proposal rather than not doing anything at all," he said. "I think it is good for people based back in Denver to actually hear from those that are going to be affected in these communities."

Lock said Tri-State has been receiving "excellent" support from various entities, including several state legislators, about the issue.

During the meeting, Lock addressed concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency overturning the state's action.

The EPA's 60-year regional haze program prompted the state to develop the proposal with Tri-State, Lock said, but the EPA ultimately has the final say.

"Theoretically (the EPA) could come back and say, 'That's not good enough, you need to do something else,'" Lock said. "That's a possibility. I don't know if that is a strong possibility, but they usually defer to the states."

The emission control technologies would need to be approved by the state legislature this coming session. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will discuss the proposal Thursday in Denver.

Lock said the cities and counties of Denver and Boulder are also supporting the $660 million plan.

Mathers had a message for Denver, Boulder and the Front Range during the commission meeting.

"Maybe if Boulder wants an upgrade, they ought to pay for it," he said

Also at the meeting

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, Nov. 18 and 31 meeting minutes.

• Approved, 3-0, a quarterly report from the Office of Emergency Management.

• Approved, 3-0, a certification with the Colorado Department of Human Services that the county meets all merit system legal requirements for administration and operation.

• Approved, 3-0, a Cigna Health Insurance renewal amendment.

• Approved, 3-0, a mineral lease with Gulfport Energy Corporation for three years with a two-year option totaling 146.74 mineral acres for a total bonus of $36,685.

• Approved, 3-0, a monthly treasurer’s report.

• Approved, 3-0, a bid recommendation for the operation of the county’s motocross track lease with Gregg Kolbaba of Paramount Motorsports for five years to be examined and renewed annually and the annual rent of $1 per year.

• Approved, 3-0, to enter into executive session with county attorney Jeremy Snow to receive legal advice regarding the authority of the Moffat County Tourism Association board.

• Approved, 3-0, the 2011 county budget.

• Approved, 3-0, two snow plow requests from the road and bridge department.

• Approved, 3-0, Nov. 23 Department of Social Services meeting minutes.

• Approved, 3-0, a renewal of the social services community services block grant totaling $15,716 through 2012 year.

• Approved, 3-0, to contract with Mountain West Insurance and Financial Services, LLC of Craig for worker’s compensation insurance for the county for one year.

• Approved, 3-0, a Fagg exemption vacation previously completed in 2003.

• Approved, 3-0, a Fagg exemption, which would divide the 70 acres of property into a 32.89-acre parcel and a 36.80-acre parcel.

• Approved, 3-0, a conditional use permit for Geokinetics for seismic exploration in the county, with the stipulation the work be completed by April 1, the work be done on dry or frozen ground, and that all trash would get picked soon after the project is completed and land would be reclaimed with fair settlements with landowners.

• Hosted an open discussion regarding the Moffat County Tourism Association and volunteer applications.

• Heard a monthly report from the county Road and Bridge Department.

• Heard a monthly report from the Department of Social Services.