WildEarth says Colorado legislators trying to protect dying coal industry

As the Colorado Senate voted Feb. 3 to roll back state clean energy standards, the state’s mining agency reported that in 2014 coal mining in the state fell to its lowest level since at least 1994, said WildEarth Guardians in a Feb. 4 statement.

“Unbelievably, as Colorado’s reliance on coal continues to dwindle, the Legislature is attacking the very clean energy standards that have helped fuel our state’s economic and environmental success,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “Hitching our boat to a sinking fossil fuel industry may serve coal lobbyists, but it doesn’t serve Coloradoans.”

The state’s Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety reported that Colorado mines produced just under 23 million tons of coal in 2014, compared to 24.3 million tons in 2013, a drop of more than 5%. The 2013 production level represented a 15% drop from 2012. The 2014 performance was the lowest in 20 years, according to data on the website of Colorado’s Geologic Survey. 2014’s production was also 40% lower than 2004’s high of 39.8 million tons, WildEarth said.

The environmental group said that decreased production was largely due to drops in coal mined at three facilities:

  • the Bowie #2 longwall mne of Bowie Resources in Delta County (2.4 million tons of 2014 production against 3.3 million in 2013);
  • Oxbow Mining‘s Elk Creek longwall mine in Gunnison County (zero production in 2014 and 436,383 tons in 2013); and
  • Peabody Energy’s Foidel Creek longwall mine in Routt County (6.7 million tons in 2014, down from 7.2 million in 2013).

The Elk Creek mine closed in 2013 due to a fire in the coal seam, and Bowie announced layoffs late last year after the Tennessee Valley Authority declined to renew its contract for this coal. Colorado’s six other coal mines held steady or showed slight production gains.

The Republican-controlled Senate has been advancing SB 44, which would sharply reduce the state’s renewable energy mandates, but observers say the bill may founder in the Democratic-controlled House. SB 44, sponsored by Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, addresses both larger and rural utilities. For larger power companies (mainly Public Service Co. of Colorado), the renewable-energy mandate would drop from 30% by 2020 to 15% by 2020. For rural co-ops, the requirement would drop from 20% by 2020 to 15% by 2020.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.