Coal Miners Rally Against Clean Energy Plans


"The coal industry claims new regulations will cost jobs."

Legislation aimed at cleaning up Denver's air and turning Colorado into a model state for clean energy and jobs is feared as a job killer for the Western Slope's coal country.

Sign-waving coal miners stole the show from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Monday night as they rallied outside the old Mesa County Courthouse. They gathered before the commission's first hearing on Xcel Energy's plan to close or retrofit some of its Front Range coal-fired plants. The changes are being made to comply with the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act.

That act requires Xcel Energy to cut nitrogen-oxide emissions by up to 80% from several Front Range coal plants by the end of 2017. The coal industry claims that will cost more than 500 jobs.

During a hearing that included less-emotional, sworn testimony, more than 400 politicians, environmentalists, miners, along with drillers from the Western Slope's oil and gas fields who stand to benefit from the legislation, overflowed a gilded hearing room.

David Ludlum, director of the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, spoke up for the state's 6,000 natural-gas employees and contractors, saying the legislation will boost the state as "a leader in natural-gas exploration."

The Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act doesn't just have two energy industries disagreeing. Republicans are also at odds over the legislation, passed just 17 days after its introduction in order to beat the federal Environmental Protection Agency's end-of-year deadline.

Not hitting that deadline with a plan for cutting emissions could have meant federal mandates for Colorado.

The PUC will hold its next—and last—hearing on Xcel's plan in Denver on Sep. 23.

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