Steamboat Springs — Colorado State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, told the Routt County Board of Commissioners Sept. 27 that if regulatory constraints on coal-fired power plants in Northwest Colorado lead to further curtailed production, or cause them to close, Steamboat Springs will feel the impact.
“You look at the power plant in Nucla shutting down, that town is already dead. If that happens here in Steamboat, I think the impact’s going to be tremendous,” Baumgardner said. “You’ll see a certain impact.”
Baumgardner is facing a re-election challenge from Democrat Emily Tracy of Breckenridge, in his sprawling Senate district, which spans more than 17,400 square miles and the counties of Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield Summit Jackson and Grand.
Baumgardner on the issues • In response to the concerns of Routt County Human Services Director Vicki Clark that the state’s Childcare Assistance Program is no longer able to meet the need among low-income families, causing counties to establish wait lists, State Senator Randy Baumgardner said the state legislature is struggling to balance its human services budget with the rapidly rising number of Medicare households in the state.
“Medicare continues to grow — 100,000 people move here each year and 10 percent of them are on Medicare,” Baumgardner said.
• Baumgardner said he supports new legislation to require photo IDs for voters seeking to register on election day, and he expects that initiative to re-surface in the 2017 legislative session.
• Baumgardner said he has grown weary of the legislature funding expensive studies. “Let’s use that money for something we know is going to be used for a program or to help a certain group,” he said.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported Sept. 24 on the shockwaves felt in the town of Nucla when Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced that it would shut down the 100-megawatt plant by 2022 under the terms of an atmospheric haze agreement.
Nucla is in western Montrose County. Tri-State plans to also close a nearby coal mine that supplies the power plant.
Tri-State also operates the Craig Station power plant just outside the city of Craig, and the Craig Daily Press reported earlier this month that the 427-megawatt Unit 1 at Craig Station will be scheduled for retirement by 2025 at the request of its owner, the Yampa Project.
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment stated in a news release that the agreement would lead to “annual reductions of millions of tons of air pollution, including pollutants that contribute to unhealthy ozone formation, emissions that can affect visibility in national and state parks and wilderness areas, and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change."
Baumgardner has criticized Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper for his contemplated executive order order that would require power companies to achieve a 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power companies by 2025 (relative to 2012 levels) and a 35 percent reduction by 2030.
“I don’t know why the governor (thinks) the executive order is necessary,” Baumgardner said Tuesday. “I have my own thoughts, but I’m going to keep them to myself.”
He has equated Hickenlooper’s pending mandate to the federal Clean Power Plan, which has been placed on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In an interview with Steamboat Today following the meeting with commissioners, Baumgardner acknowledged that while his highest priority is saving coal and power generation jobs in his district, the state’s dependency on fossil fuels is in transition. He cited his support for legislation that promoted alternative fuel sources, including methane capture to provide an energy source for rural electric cooperatives.
“I’ve supported wind and voted for solar generation,” Baumgardner said. “I support all of it, including geothermal.” #But in the short-term, he said, Colorado can’t afford to continue to shut down one industry.
“There has to be a balance found. I think everybody is working to find that balance. No one has the answer yet, but we’ll continue to work to find that balance,” Baumgardner said. “But the government should not be mandating these agencies meet requirements that possibly are not attainable.”