Energy Blend: Twentymile Mine brings $380 million impact on Northwest Colorado economy

Routt County’s Twentymile Coal Mine, which employees numerous Moffat County workers, has again received top honors from its parent company for keeping miners safe while working underground.
John F. Russell/file

Though not a Moffat County operation, Twentymile Mine, located on Routt County Road 27, about 30 miles southeast of Craig, as the crow flies, employs a significant number of Moffat County residents and plays an important role in the county’s energy equation.

Twentymile is owned and operated by St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corporation, the largest private-sector coal company in the world, and though company officials were not available for in-person interviews, the company did supply statements and employment and production numbers for 2016.

According to information released by Charlene Murdock, director of corporate communications for Peabody, Twentymile employed about 300 workers in 2016 — about 60 percent of whom reside in Moffat County — and generated an estimated $380 million in direct and indirect economic benefit to the region during the same year.

According to Murdock, coal generation was up in 2017, having reclaimed its place as the top fuel source for U.S. electricity generation. This uptick is a positive sign for the mine after 2015 saw the lowest statewide production of coal — about 18.7 million tons — in 23 years.

Murdock attributed this increase to shifts in environmental policy under the administration of President Donald Trump.

“Events of this year have continued to demonstrate the role of coal as an essential part of the energy mix for affordable, reliable, resilient energy,” Murdock said in a news release. “We have an opportunity to work toward a more balanced energy approach with an administration that has taken a number of steps to advance a pro-jobs, pro-energy economy.

Murdock referred to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent announcement that the agency will roll back plans to implement the Clean Power Plan, which was proposed in 2014 by the administration of former President Barack Obama, but never put into action.

The plan called for a 32-percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, from 2005 levels, a goal some argued might have crippled the industry.

“The (Trump) administration clearly recognizes that reducing coal from the baseload mix and forcing too much reliance on renewables creates reliability issues and drives up costs,” Murdock said in the release.

She added that Twentymile is proactively working to further bolster operations and production.

“Twentymile has applied for a federal lease by application for 4.1 million tons of coal to support timely, ongoing operations at Twentymile Mine,” she said in the release. “The reserves will provide $13 million in tax royalties at the time it is mined.”

Twentymile Mine operates 24 hours per day, 361 days per year.

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