In an effort to improve air quality statewide, two coal-fired power plants will shut down in the coming years, according to an announcement made last week. The closing of both plants, located on the Western Slope, will reduce carbon dioxide emission by an estimated 4 million tons per year, while also eliminating thousands of tons of other pollutants. Of course, those numbers fail to take into account the human element at stake.
“These emission reductions will help lower ozone levels that contribute to respiratory illnesses such as asthma,” Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment chief Dr. Larry Wolk said in a statement. “The reductions also will reduce haze and improve visibility in our national parks and wilderness areas.”
By the end of 2022, the Nucla Station in western Montrose County will be retired. Additionally, the New Horizon Mine, which provides coal to the Nucla Station, will also close and undergo reclamation.
Following the Nucla Station’s closure, one of the three coal-fired units at Craig Station is scheduled to shut down by the end of 2025. The remaining two plants will operate with added emissions control equipment.
“Tri-State has worked tirelessly to preserve our ability to responsibly use coal to produce reliable and affordable power, which makes the decision to retire a coal-fired generating unit all the more difficult,” Tri-State CEO Mike McInnes commented. “We are not immune to the challenges that face coal-based electricity across the country.”
Tri-State Generation has ownership stakes in both coal-powered plants that are scheduled to close. The company has said it is “more cost-effective” to shut down both plants, rather than retrofit the equipment to meet stricter emissions requirements.
However, these efforts to improve Colorado’s environment does mean cutting high-paying jobs in areas of the states where employment opportunities are limited. While the closing at Craig Station means no or minimal layoffs, 55 people work at the Nucla Station and another 28 are employed at the New Horizon Mine.
While the importance of protecting our natural surroundings cannot be overstated, these measures will hit the Nucla and Naturita communities hard, leaving over 80 people without a source of income. The environment plays a vital role in our lives but so does the economy. Once again, government regulations hinder the oil and gas industry while turning a blind eye to working men and women.