3 takeaways from the Colorado coal plant closures


Colorado officials have said two coal-fired power plants on the Western Slope will shut down and cease operations as part of an agreement to lower carbon emissions.

One of the facilities, part of a three-unit generating plant, is in Craig and will be closed by Dec. 31, 2025, according to a Sept. 1 statement from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Starting in 2020, that facility will have more stringent limits on annual emissions.

The other plant, located in Nucla, Colorado, will shutter as well.

The news came late Thursday evening and made the rounds on the Friday before a holiday weekend.

The move will cost at least 93 jobs, but the losses will not be immediate. A coal mine that supplies one of the plants will also shut down, but the closures won’t take full effect until 2022 and 2025.

The plant closures came as part of an agreement with Colorado and a federal clean air plan to lower carbon emissions, which contribute to haze and health hazards. The agreement itself stems from a 2012 lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians.

State environmental groups are likely pleased

The state’s big environmental groups were not exactly out there trumpeting the news today. But asked for comment, Jessica Goad, spokeswoman for Conservation Colorado, a leading environmental group in the state, said, “We are very glad to see it.”

The plan, she said, would “reduce carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants” by 10 percent. She added that such a timeline “gives coal communities time to start diversifying their economies, an issue we’ve been actively engaged in.”

The Sierra Club, which leads a national campaign called Beyond Coal, does not currently have an active Beyond Coal campaign in Colorado, says Jim Alexee, the group’s new Rocky Mountain chapter director.

“But I definitely know that there’s more decarbonization work to do and we would like nothing more than to support additional efforts to decarbonize Colorado,” he said.

Others are skeptical

Here’s a take on Twitter from Sean Paige, a spokesman for the Colorado Senate GOP and a reliably reactionary conservative voice in state politics on a variety of topics.

One Colorado resident hopes her own local coal plant will close

Leslie Weise, a Monument lawyer whose son goes to school near the coal-fired Martin Drake Power plant in downtown Colorado Springs, used the news to express her concern about Drake.

She has fought for at least a year with protests and lawsuits to have the plant shut down and prove it is not polluting the air her son breathes.

“Closing this ugly and highly polluting plant would help attract businesses and young professionals to the city, and would better represent Colorado Spring’s new title as the ‘Olympic City,’” she said.

Weise pointed to Boulder, which hopes to get to 100 percent clean energy by 2030, to contrast it with Colorado’s second-largest city and her own area’s reliance on a downtown coal plant.

A significant amount of carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided, she says, “by decommissioning this obvious prime candidate for helping to meet the Clean Power Plan for the state.”


Photo by oatsy40 for Creative Commons in Flickr.


  1. Shutting down the coal fired plants is all well and good, but you have folks losing their jobs with no plans to help them…We have the Koch brothers and big oil and gas fighting tooth and nail against renewable energy, they are fighting against any common sense fixes to help these families…It is not just the Koch brothers, but we have a governor, and a republican dominated Senate, who do nothing but hurt our workers…The Koch brothers must be stopped, and reject them from our political process…they are corrupt, and they are willing to corrupt our voting to get what they want…they are an enemy of our nation…

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