Plant leaders meet with city to start transition plans |

Plant leaders meet with city to start transition plans

Conversation about future options for Craig after Tri-State is still in early stages

Craig Station Power Plant at 2101 S Ranney St, Craig, CO 81625 on Dec. 17, 2021.
Photo by Billy Schuerman / For the Craig Press

City council and staff met with representatives from Tri-State Generation and Transmission to discuss future planning on how the community will adjust and react to power plant and coal mine closures.

According to a settlement reached by Tri-State and its partners back in January, stakeholders in the transition will meet to form a community assistance plan. Facilitated by a third party, these groups — including the city, county and the Office of Just Transition — are required to meet before March 1 in order to begin developing the scope of work to be done in the facilitated process. Tentatively that meeting is planned for Feb. 22, and council will decide who will represent the city before that day. At that meeting, stakeholders will decide who exactly that facilitator will be.

“We’re looking at different options for the community up here, and how this community was going to evolve with the last presentation,” former Craig Station Plant Manager Rich Thompson said. “So they came up with a settlement offer that everybody signed off on to basically give us a year to get started and come up with what we think our community needs. So that we can move forward — whether it’s to support our taxes, or to support the local economy, or to look at every option that possibly can come up. This will be the time for us to start working on that.”

These meetings will not include any plans regarding repurposing Tri-State’s facilities. Those decisions will be made by their own leadership, and public affairs coordinator for Tri-State Sarah Carlisle said that they have already begun looking at many different options as to how to transition away from coal.

“We are looking at all funding opportunities that we would have to explore (including) a research center, hydrogen, ammonia,” Carlisle said. “We’re looking at absolutely everything. We were one of the participants in the AGNC and Region 10 Department of Commerce grant that was unfortunately not selected to move forward to phase two. But we are looking to identify somebody that would specialize in identifying funding opportunities — state and national level.”

The Office of Just Transition will cover the price of the facilitator up to $100,000, and if there are remaining costs, those will be paid for by Tri-State. The total price for the facilitator will not exceed $300,000. A news release from Tri-State from the settlement said that the company will work closely with community leaders to support economic development goals, as well as support employees in transition.

In these meetings, groups will explore community assistance opportunities for Craig and the rest of Moffat County, which are considered coal-reliant communities. Parties in the settlement have also agreed to continued analysis of the retirement date for Craig Station Unit 3, which previous modeling validated would retire by 2030, to ensure reliable power to Tri-State’s utility members.

Eventually, the chosen facilitator will have to file a summary to the Public Utilities Commission based on agreements made at those stakeholder meetings, but there currently is no set deadline for that submission. As part of the settlement, there will be a workforce transition plan that will be submitted by the end of this year.

Right now, it’s unclear if the county will lose all of the tax revenue generated by the plant come Jan. 2030, Thompson said.

“The other thing to consider there though, is as soon as the unit one closes, Trapper doesn’t have to supply coal for that unit anymore,” council member Sean Hovorka said. “Our coal use is going to significantly decrease, so it’s going to be kind of a two-fold impact of not only are we losing tax dollars from the unit, we’re also losing the tax dollars from harvesting those natural resources.”

Currently, coal-powered plants in both Craig and nearby Hayden are set to close by the end of the decade. Xcel Energy is proposing to retire Hayden 1 plant in 2027 and Hayden 2 in 2028. Craig 1 is planned to close by 2025, Craig 2 by 2028, and Craig 3, which is owned by Tri-State, will close by 2030.

“There’s some very deep-seeded ideas about how they want to do things in this community and what they want and allow,” Thompson added. “I think as a community, we have to come together on some of these ideas of where we want to go with what we want to do and what we want this community to look like when we get past 2030. When the last unit shuts down on Craig station, the coal demand is going to stop at that time.”

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