State Sen. Baumgardner: Steamboat would feel the economic effects of reduced power plants |

State Sen. Baumgardner: Steamboat would feel the economic effects of reduced power plants

'Loss of power plants would be felt in Steamboat'

Colorado State Senator Randy Baumgardner R-Hot Sulphur Springs, whose district includes Routt and Moffat counties, speaking to an audience in Craig in 2015.

— Colorado State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, told the Routt County Board of Commissioners Sept. 27 that if regulatory constraints on coal-fired power plants in Northwest Colorado lead to further curtailed production, or cause them to close, Steamboat Springs will feel the impact.

"You look at the power plant in Nucla shutting down, that town is already dead. If that happens here in Steamboat, I think the impact's going to be tremendous," Baumgardner said. "You'll see a certain impact."

Baumgardner is facing a re-election challenge from Democrat Emily Tracy of Breckenridge, in his sprawling Senate district, which spans more than 17,400 square miles and the counties of Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield Summit Jackson and Grand.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported Sept. 24 on the shockwaves felt in the town of Nucla when Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced that it would shut down the 100-megawatt plant by 2022 under the terms of an atmospheric haze agreement.

Nucla is in western Montrose County. Tri-State plans to also close a nearby coal mine that supplies the power plant.

Tri-State also operates the Craig Station power plant just outside the city of Craig, and the Craig Daily Press reported earlier this month that the 427-megawatt Unit 1 at Craig Station will be scheduled for retirement by 2025 at the request of its owner, the Yampa Project.

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The Colorado Department of Health and Environment stated in a news release that the agreement would lead to "annual reductions of millions of tons of air pollution, including pollutants that contribute to unhealthy ozone formation, emissions that can affect visibility in national and state parks and wilderness areas, and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.”

Baumgardner has criticized Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper for his contemplated executive order order that would require power companies to achieve a 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power companies by 2025 (relative to 2012 levels) and a 35 percent reduction by 2030.

"I don't know why the governor (thinks) the executive order is necessary," Baumgardner said Tuesday. "I have my own thoughts, but I'm going to keep them to myself."

He has equated Hickenlooper's pending mandate to the federal Clean Power Plan, which has been placed on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In an interview with Steamboat Today following the meeting with commissioners, Baumgardner acknowledged that while his highest priority is saving coal and power generation jobs in his district, the state's dependency on fossil fuels is in transition. He cited his support for legislation that promoted alternative fuel sources, including methane capture to provide an energy source for rural electric cooperatives.

"I've supported wind and voted for solar generation," Baumgardner said. "I support all of it, including geothermal."

But in the short-term, he said, Colorado can't afford to continue to shut down one industry.

"There has to be a balance found. I think everybody is working to find that balance. No one has the answer yet, but we'll continue to work to find that balance," Baumgardner said. "But the government should not be mandating these agencies meet requirements that possibly are not attainable."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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