Northwest Colorado energy industry economic impacts
Editor’s note: All of the data quoted in this assessment was mined from Yampa Valley Data Partners or interviews with representatives from the respective power plants and coal mines.
Without Colorado’s robust energy industry, much of America wouldn’t be able to turn lights on or watch TV.
Businesses would be clueless without Quicken and Starbucks coffee pots around the country would run dry.
And, many Coloradans, especially those living in Northwest Colorado, wouldn’t be able to put food on the table or go to the doctor.
Last year, Colowyo and Trapper above ground mines, which both supply coal to Craig Station, provided about $50 million in wages and benefits to employees. Coal mining alone provides nearly 1,000 permanent jobs to Moffat and Routt counties.
Moffat County’s energy industry (including Peabody Energy, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Trapper Mine and Colowyo) provide the most jobs out of the top ten employers in the county, with 1,006 permanent jobs.
Craig Station and Hayden Station combined provided almost $40 million in wages and benefits to employees in 2013.
Environmental retrofits and revisions to Craig Station will bring at least an additional 475 temporary jobs to Moffat County in the future.
Craig Station spends $276 million in Colorado and $213.8 million of that locally.
The oil and gas industry in Moffat County provided more than $2 million in wages in 2013.
Forrest Luke, environmental and external affairs manager for Trapper Mine, is concerned about the economic impact of new renewable energy regulations.
“It’s not just gonna affect us locally,” Luke said. “Its gonna affect everyone in the country. And the ones who will be hit the hardest are the ones on fixed income, and the poor. They’ll be spending much more of their income for energy; they’re going to have to choose between energy and food.”
Some of those renewable sources of energy have brought money into Colorado, too.
In 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association, wind power brought up to 4,000 jobs to Colorado. Land lease payments for wind energy total more than $7.5 million.
The Solar Energy Industry Association’s website said, “Colorado solar industry generates as much revenue as its top-ranked craft brewing industry.” More than 3,000 people are employed statewide by the solar energy industry.
Audrey Danner, executive director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, said at the Sept. 16 Moffat County commissioners’ meeting that the Craig community has a challenge ahead of them, but not one they can’t overcome.
“We have our work cut out to tell our story and look to the future of coal development, and what will that look like? It may not look like it looked 20 years ago.”