Colorado PUC takes Public Comment on Critical Clean Air Plan

Environment Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, CO — The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is set to hold a public comment hearing this evening in downtown Grand Junction on Xcel Energy’s proposed plan to retire five Denver-metro coal-fired power units. Xcel recently hit a critical deadline under Colorado’s landmark new clean air law, filing a plan with the PUC proposing the retirements. This an important step in complying with HB10-1365, the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act that passed the Colorado General Assembly in early April, and sponsored by West Slope Senators Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction) and Bruce Whitehead (D-Hesperus), and Rep. Ellen Roberts (R- Durango). 

The Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act creates a framework for replacing old, inefficient and dirty coal-fired power generation with cleaner energy solutions that provide for healthier air and clean energy jobs for Colorado, and was widely supported by a diverse group of energy companies, legislators from both parties, public health advocates, local governments and conservation groups.

“Taking steps to create bold, new clean energy solutions is not only a practical approach toward achieving cleaner air, but it also makes sense for the wallet,” said Tresi Houpt, Garfield County Commissioner.  “By getting out in front of looming EPA regulations, Colorado can craft a unique and comprehensive clean air solution that will save west slope customers money today while responsibly growing jobs in a cleaner energy economy.” 

By acting now, Xcel Energy expects that its proposal will result in savings of at least approximately $225 million when compared to the traditional approach of retrofitting all of these plants with emissions controls.

Proponents noted that replacing the aging, high emitting coal plants in the metro area with cleaner power is the single most cost-effective solution to cut air pollution and prevent disease, save lives, reduce hospitalizations and improve human health. 

“Moving forward with implementing the Clean Air, Clean Jobs act will help millions of Coloradans impacted by poor air quality,” notes Natalia Swalnick, Air Quality Manager for the American Lung Association in Colorado. “Air pollution, such as particulates generated from coal-fired power plants, can have a negative impact on lung health by aggravating existing conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”  

The Clean-Air, Clean-Jobs Act is part of a comprehensive effort that includes ensuring that Colorado is making bold new commitments on renewable energy and that traditional resource development is done right.

“Transitioning away from coal and towards cleaner resources such as wind and solar will move Colorado to a cleaner, more prosperous energy future,” notes Paul Light, Western Colorado Congress member and Battlement Mesa resident. “This means not only working to help Xcel make this shift as quickly as possible, but also making sure that if natural gas does play a larger role in transitioning to a cleaner energy future it is produced in a way that best protects public health and the environment.” 

The Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act is geared towards building a robust new energy economy in Colorado, and clean technology companies will be testifying to their support before the commission. 

“It is time to quickly add jobs in Colorado’s clean energy economy,” said Fred Pittinger, CEO of Simplicity Solar in Grand Junction. “The more we free our electricity grid from the grip of dirty coal, the more room we have to meet new demand with cleaner sources of power from the sun, wind, and of course by using energy more efficiently.”

At its core, Xcel’s move is attracting statewide and national attention because it will fundamentally transform Colorado’s electricity sector. 

“Today we sit at a real crossroads,” said Mike Kaplan, President & CEO of Aspen Skiing Company. “We’ve reached a time when the costs of coal have begun to exceed its benefits. It makes more sense to transition smoothly on our own terms, and this plan represents a thoughtful step in a cleaner direction that will benefit Coloradans in the short and the long term.” 

The coal-fired plants that Xcel has proposed to replace are over forty years old.  These plants face major capital investments in modern pollution control equipment to protect human health and the environment. 

Xcel Energy serves approximately 25,000 customers in Grand Junction.