Rep. Don Coram: Power plant closures will have devastating effects on rural Colorado | CraigDailyPress.com

Rep. Don Coram: Power plant closures will have devastating effects on rural Colorado

Rep. Don Coram/For the Daily Press

The first thought I had when I learned that the Nucla Station power plant, the New Horizon Mine and one-third of the Craig Station plant will be shutting down was these are critical jobs to this area that will not return.

The closures are part of a court settlement between the power company, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, and a coalition of groups which included the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the eco-terrorist group, WildEarth Guardians. Having spent my career in the energy sector, I can tell you this closure was preventable, and that makes this situation all the more frustrating. But the shuttered facilities, which will terminate approximately 90 jobs in these communities, are part of a larger problem: the energy plants that power the urban regions of Colorado are economic cornerstones in many rural communities, and when they are shut down it can cause severe and irreparable damage.

Much of rural Colorado still struggles with higher unemployment and stagnant economies. The stark reality is that when people in rural Colorado are not able to find sustainable employment, they simply relocate to a more prosperous place — and I can't blame them. This exodus from rural communities is taking a toll, and many small towns cannot afford to lose more revenue or people.

Consider Nucla has a current population of less than 700, and has lost about 10 percent of its population since 2002. The Nucla Station contributes nearly 70 percent of the taxes for the communities of Naturita, Nucla and Paradox. When this station shuts down, how will we afford to build new schools and new fire departments? Furthermore, approximately one-third of the jobs in this area are directly related to the power station and mine — consider the impact to the Front Range if Denver lost one-third of its jobs.

The truth is these communities may never recover from this loss. And with organizations like WildEarth Guardians and the EPA committed to killing all natural resource procurement, the result of this settlement is deeply concerning for many other rural communities.

The debate about human-influenced climate change continues to be heated. However, while it still remains a debate, we should not let urban politicians and radical fringe groups make decisions that can destroy Colorado's rural communities. Maybe to the EPA, destroying 90 jobs is insignificant, but to towns like Nucla or Craig, those jobs are the lifeblood of their communities. I am deeply disappointed in this settlement and will continue to fight to preserve Colorado's natural resource development and our rural way of life.

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Colorado Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, is the ranking Republican member of the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee and is also a member of the House Transportation & Energy Committee and Water Resources Review Committee.Colorado Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, is the ranking Republican member of the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee and is also a member of the House Transportation & Energy Committee and Water Resources Review Committee.Colorado Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, is the ranking Republican member of the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee and is also a member of the House Transportation & Energy Committee and Water Resources Review Committee.