Garfield County doesn’t sign petition on clean-air regs | AspenTimes.com

Garfield County doesn’t sign petition on clean-air regs

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A group of Western Slope counties and a lobbying organization are pressing state officials to weigh local socio-economic impacts before implementing new state clean-air regulations, but Garfield County is not on the list of signatories.

The regulations are aimed at decreasing Xcel Energy’s emissions from its power plants, and Xcel has been directed to come up with a plan for review in August by the Public Utilities Commission.

The Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC) and three counties – Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt – last week filed a petition with the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission over worries that the new law might drastically reduce coal mining on the Western Slope, said Aron Diaz, the AGNC’s executive director, on Monday.

Some reports have estimated that the region could lose as many as 500 jobs if power plants suddenly switch to natural gas, which is known to burn cleaner than coal, and the petition asks the state to take this into account in any implementation plans.

Diaz asked the Garfield County commissioners to join the effort recently, but the commissioners declined to sign the petition.

Commissioner Tresi Houpt noted that the law is expected to affect “only a couple of old, outdated plants on the Front Range.”

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And, she continued, “The Front Range is having real air-quality issues, so they have to do something about outdated plants,” which are regarded as major sources of greenhouse gases.

In fact, she said hopefully, the new law might push the industry to clean up its emissions.

“There is a market out there for coal,” she said. “There will continue to be a market out there for coal.”

She termed Diaz’s petition “a knee-jerk reaction” to the new law and suggested that the impacts of the law may not be as bad as some are predicting.

Citing a growing perception that natural gas can be a “bridge” to a future of greater reliance on renewable energy and less on fossil fuels, she said, “I think that the solution is to come up with a way to put coal to work in a cleaner manner” rather than to try to “derail” the state’s commitment to cleaner technology.

Commissioner John Martin suggested that a better route for the state would be “not to eliminate one [kind of energy], but to make sure that they are all efficient.”

Rather than sign the petition, the commissioners voted to endorse the concept behind it, and to encourage the two competing industries to work out some solution that will satisfy all the parties involved.

jcolson@postindependent.com