The Energy Blend A Supplement to the Craig Daily Press
2 | November 2016
The energy Blend
A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press
Trapper Mine Mine Trapper Trapper is is onon thethe safety and wellTrapperMine’s Mine’sfocus focus safety and wellbeing of its employees, the needs of its being of its employees, the needs of its customers customers and and community communityand andTrapper’s Trapper’s commitment to protect the environment. commitment to protect the environment. Trapper has been recognized by numerous by numerous Trapper has been organizations for itsrecognized safety record, its organizations for its safety reclamation success, its operational record, efficiency its reclamation its Trapper’s operational efficiency and communitysuccess, interaction. impact on the economy is significant. 2015 on andlocal community interaction. Trapper’sInimpact Trapper paideconomy over $23 ismillion in wages the local significant. In and 2015, benefits, $11.6 million in taxes and royalties Trapper paid over $23 million in wages and and purchased nearly $29 million in goods and benefits, $11.6 million in taxes and royalties services.
and purchased nearly $29 million in goods and
services. Trapper has received the Sentinels of Safety award, the mining industry’s premier safety award. Trapper was selected as a company of Trapper has received the Sentinels of Safety the year the by mining the Colorado of award, industry’sAssociation premier safety Commerce and Industry. Trapper was award. Trapper was selected as a company of recognized with the bronze award as one of the the best year examples by the in Colorado Association States of of three the United Trapper was Commerce and Industry. history of mined land reclamation in the 25-year as onewas of the recognized with the bronze the modern coal mining era.award The mine for of selected fromexamples among 1,400 U.S.United coal mines States three best in the this award. Trapper has received history of mined land reclamation in the 25-yearpositive public and media response to its reclamation the modern coal mining era. The mine was excellence. Trapper continually strives to be a selected from among 1,400 U.S. coal mines for safe and efficient surface mine. The Company this award. Trapper has positive maintains a commitment to thereceived ideal of safety public and media response to its reclamation first and production will follow.
excellence. Trapper continually strives to be a safe and efficient surface mine. The Company maintains a commitment to the ideal of safety first and production will follow.
Trapper Mine is on the cutting edge of mine land reclamation and mine technology with special emphasis on sediment and erosion control and Trapper Mine mitigation. is on the cutting edgetakes of mine wildlife habitat Trapper itsland seriouslywith andspecial is to the environment commitment reclamation and mine technology proud of the work it does in returning land and emphasis on sediment and erosionthe control to awildlife condition that inmitigation. many regards, is better habitat Trapper takes its than the pre-mining range condition.
commitment to the environment seriously and is proud of flourishing the work itondoes in returning the land Wildlife are Trapper land. Mature better to a condition that in many regards, is shrub clumps or islands are a reclamation feature thatpre-mining provides range cover condition. for many of the than the
species that inhabit the reclaimed areas. The times that of preavailable is three to on fiveTrapper Wildlifeforage are flourishing land. Mature mining. Many species of wildlife are found on shrub clumps or islands are a reclamation reclaimed lands. Pronghorns have increased feature that provides of the from zero before mining cover began for to many a current species that inhabit the reclaimed areas. population of several hundred. Elk have The of preavailable forageMule is three five times increased ten-fold. deerto numbers arethat stable at several animals.of Columbian found on mining.hundred Many species wildlife aresharptailed grouse, alands. species that has been petitioned increased reclaimed Pronghorns have to be considered threatened or endangered, are from zero before mining began to a current flourishing on reclaimed land. Stock ponds population of scarce severaldrinking hundred. provide otherwise water.Elk Seedhave increased ten-fold. Mule deer numbers are is from over 30 different native plant species stable at several hundreddiverse, animals. adapted Columbianand sharpto provide used reclaimed communities. sustainable tailed grouse, a speciesplant that has been petitioned for the mined land for are Trapper is responsible to be considered threatened or endangered, after the seeding process. at flourishing least 10 years on reclaimed land. Stock ponds This ensures that the reclamation has a chance provide otherwise scarce drinking water. Seed to take root. All land is returned to its pre-mined plant species is from over costdifferent of aboutnative $30,000 an acre. condition at a 30
used to provide diverse, adapted and sustainable reclaimed plant communities. Trapper is responsible for the mined land for at least 10 years after the seeding process. This ensures that the reclamation has a chance to take root. All land is returned to its pre-mined condition at a cost of about $30,000 an acre.
25910 S Highway 13 | Craig, Colorado 81625
25910 S Highway 13 | Craig, Colorado 81625
A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press
The energy Blend
Clean PoweR Plan still FaCes legal sCRutiny as ColoRado moves ahead
side with the industry and with a Democratic administration the justice would side with the government,” he said.
with stakeholders,” Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman kathy Green said in an email. “No decisions have been made.”
By PATRICk kElly
Oral arguments began in federal court at the end of September and the case cannot progress until a ruling, which will ultimately be appealed by the losing side. At that point, the Supreme Court can officially accept the case and consider arguments.
Citing increasing temperatures and weather related to global warming as threats to Colorado’s economy, the proposal focuses on state agencies working with utilities to come up with effective pollution reduction while keeping energy prices stable.
Despite the federal Clean Power Plan being stalled in the courts, Colorado may still move ahead with plans to reduce green house gas pollution from power plants.
Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said in a statement that Hickenlooper’s actions might rob citizens of the right to petition government through elected representatives and participate in enacting policy.
Since the finalized version was first announced in August 2015 a lot has gone on with President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Colorado joined 23 other states to challenge the plan in federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark stay pending the result of that lawsuit and Gov. John Hickenlooper drafted a proposed executive order that would still move the state ahead with emission reduction goals. According to the White House, “The final Clean Power Plan sets flexible and achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, 9 percent more ambitious than the proposal.”
States would be responsible for creating their own plans to meet the requirements and have the option of working with other states by trading in an emission-credit market. The Clean Power Plan sets two options for how states evaluate emissions — rate-based and mass-based. A rate-based plan looks at pounds of carbon dioxide produced per megawatt hour while mass-based considers overall CO2 emissions. In 2012, Colorado produced 1,973 pounds of CO2 for every megawatt hour generated, meaning it will have to achieve a 40 percent reduction to meet the 2030 goal of 1,174 pounds per megawatt hour.
But those goals were put on hold when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, halted implementation of the plan until its legality is decided. Colorado is one of 23 states and numerous energy industry groups suing the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the implementation of the Clean Power Plan has no legal foundation under the Clean Air Act.
It’s no secret that greenhouse gas emissions and climate change have been guiding the social discourse on energy development across the country. The Clean Power Plan, state regulations and numerous lawsuits targeting the fossil fuel industry all point to increasing regulations on emissions, especially carbon dioxide (CO2). But what if the operators of coal and natural gas power plants could find a way to not only capture carbon dioxide, but also turn it into marketable products and create an entirely new revenue stream? That is exactly the challenge that TriState Generation and Transmission Association, operator of 1,303-megawatt Craig Station coal-fired power plant, along with numerous partners, has taken up. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Craig Station’s total reported emissions in 2014 were about 9.3 million tons of CO2.
“Now that he’s no longer on the court, it’s likely that the court would tie on the question,” Mark Squillace, director of the Natural Resources law Center at the University of Colorado Boulder said.
In an unprecedented move in February 2016, the Supreme Court reached He said this case has been “ideologidown into a lower court and issued a cally driven” from the beginning—the stay on the impending regulation. results of the 2016 Presidential Election and who gets to appoint the The stay means states will not be next Supreme Court justice will be of legally accountable for meeting the key importance to the outcome. requirements of the currently-in-question Clean Power Plan until the courts “It seems likely with a Republican determine the rule’s legality administration that the justice would
Could CaRbon CaPtuRe solve Coal’s RegulatoRy woes? By PATRICk kElly
But with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who voted in support of the stay, just days after the court issued its decision the future of the case is slightly harder to read.
products that have use?” he said. “That’s a revolutionary idea and one we think is worthy of investigation.”
As reported by the Associated Press in August 2016, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper helped draft a proposed executive order that would prompt state agencies to continue working on ways to bring 2012 carbon dioxide emission levels down by 35 percent by 2030. “It’s still a draft and the governor’s team continues to have discussions
but has been a topic of conversation for some time. The EPA has even assigned a dollar amount to the social costs of adding one ton of carbon to To spur innovation, Tri-State has been the atmosphere. working with the XPRIZE Foundation to create a $20 million prize for the According to the EPA, the middle-ofdeveloper of the most successful the-road estimate for the social cost Power Agency’s Dry Fork Station near Energy Technology laboratory projnew technology for turning coalof carbon is $36 per ton. Gillette. ects capturing carbon would cost based flue gas into a marketable $91 per ton of CO2, increasing the product. Professor Mark Squillace, director of Jason Begger, executive direclevelized cost of electricity by 75 the Natural Resources law Center at tor of the Wyoming Infrastructure percent for a subcritical pulverized Tri-State has donated $10 million Authority, said the test center will the University of Colorado Boulder, coal-fired power plant. to the purse for the NRG COSIA be an industrial-scale laboratory said the government’s unwillingness Carbon XPRIZE and the final stage of where promising research on carbon Boughey said the current cost of to take into account external costs competition will be held at the ITC capture can be brought to a much associated with fossil fuel developcapturing carbon emissions is once it is completed. larger scale. ment have spurred many of the prohibitive, but if ways could be recent lawsuits aimed at the industry. found to turn the CO2 into a revenue “This facility will support the realAt the ITC, live flue gas from the adjastream it would be a major stride for world testing of carbon management cent 422-megawatt coal plant will be “This is going to be a standard sort the industry. technologies,” Boughey said. diverted to test bays where research of argument that the environmental teams will conduct their work. groups are going to make regarding “Rather than it being waste… can Reducing carbon emissions came any type of fossil fuel development,” you look at carbon emissions as a reinto the spotlight with President “Sort of like an RV park,” Begger said, source that can be turned into other Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan he said. describing the layout, which consists of gravel pads with utility hookups and access to the flue gas.
“Executive orders at both the state and federal levels strip citizens of this right,” he said. “I’m disappointed that the governor has decided to push regulations that will have a devastating impact on Colorado’s economy, taking jobs away from families and raising energy costs.”
Wyoming’s, as well as the private sector’s, interest in producing carbon capture technologies is partly inspired by putting the political debate to bed, Begger said. “We’re kind of over fighting climate change talks — it’s not a winning sort of message,” he said. If the concept of a “carbon-strained” energy environment is an undeniable reality, fossil fuel companies and the communities that have economies reliant on them want to be the ones to find solutions. “We need quit looking at it as a political football and recognize that, like other emissions were, it’s an engineering challenge, and, given enough resources and reasonable timeframe, there is no reason why the industry should not be able to find a solution,” Begger said.
The diversion system that will take the plant’s exhaust to the test bays was installed in spring during a routine outage, and the ITC is anticipated to be complete by the summer of 2017.
Begger said construction costs are estimated at around $14 million, to which Tri-State has contributed “With regulations coming forward on $5 million. The state of Wyoming carbon emissions, that presents an funded the bulk of the project with increasing risk to affordable and reli- a $15 million investment, and the able electricity, and it is important to National Rural Electric Cooperative Tri-State that we make investments Association has also contributed $1 in technologies that offer solutions to million. The total of about $20 milthose challenges,” said lee Boughey, lion collected will fund construction senior manager of corporate comas well as the test center’s first few munications and public affairs for years of operation. Tri-State. “Their focus is on the lowest cost, One such project Tri-State has most reliable power for their meminvested in is the Integrated Test bers,” Begger said. Center at Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s and the Wyoming Municipal With current technology, the National
Representatives of the groups partnering in the Integrated Test Center break ground at Dry Fork Station on April 27. Courtesy Photo.
4 | November 2016
The energy Blend
A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press
CRaig native eneRgiZed about CaRbon CaPtuRe ReseaRCh By ANDy BOCkElMAN in the subsurface, so that we can undertake these injections safely. We specifically want to stabilize the CO2 in the pore structure of A 2006 graduate of Moffat County the underground rock formations in High School who received a PhD order to prevent the buoyant CO2 in environmental engineering from fluid from traveling up toward the Oregon State University, Herring has surface where it could potentially been performing research on geocontaminate groundwater, or be logic carbon dioxide sequestration released to the atmosphere. at Australian National University. In general, scientists, geologists The Craig Daily Press caught up and engineers working in this field with Herring about her work and are definitely moving toward the how it could impact the world. goal of being able to accurately predict and control the movement CdP: What kind of advances have of the CO2 plume once it’s injected you had in your research with underground; we have been develcarbon capture/sequestration? oping a better understanding of the fluid flow properties of CO2 under herring: My research focuses on different reservoir conditions — the transport of carbon dioxide different pressure and temperature (CO2) in subsurface geologic sysconditions — and in different tems after the CO2 has been capgeologic systems. tured from the emissions stream of a power plant and injected several In my research, specifically, we hundred meters underground. My recently published a paper detailresearch is in the storage compoing some experiments in which nent of carbon capture and storage we demonstrated that we can (CCS). This is an important area manipulate injection patterns using of study because we need to be an intermittent injection scheme able to predict on what length and to stabilize greater quantities of time scales the CO2 will migrate the injected CO2, which makes the For the past year, Northwest Colorado’s own Anna Herring has been hard at work Down Under.
injection safer. CdP: With the background in the specific areas of science you have, what is it that draws you to this kind of project? herring: I’m interested in CO2 sequestration because I think it is a viable pathway toward carbon-emissions-free energy production. Climate change is the biggest challenge and threat facing humanity right now, and we are already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of rising global temperatures and extreme weather events. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing massive coral bleaching and die-off events due to increasing water temperatures and acidification of the ocean. Our current fossil fuel based modes of energy production are absolutely unsustainable, and we simply cannot continue with this business-as-usual attitude. Combating climate change will require a compete shift to different energy production methods — solar, wind, etc. — and associated with that, an overhaul of our energy distribution grid. But, at this point,
Anna Herring, pictured, is a Craig native with a PhD in environmental engineering from Oregon State University who is currently researching geologic carbon dioxide sequestration at Australian National University. Courtesy Photo.
our renewable energy options are not advanced enough to meet the capacity we require, and waiting for these technologies to reach that point is not an option. CdP: Do you anticipate the development of carbon capture projects to be long-term, or do you believe carbon capture could be implemented sooner than we think? herring: I think of CCS as a moderate-term technology: implementation would allow us to continue to utilize coal and other fossil fuel powers both in the U.S. and abroad for the next, say, 50 to a couple hundred years, until renewable energy options are mature enough for fossil fuel technologies to be phased out. CCS has actually been successfully implemented in Norway in an offshore geological formation, the Sleipner Project, since 1996. There, it is used to sequester carbon emissions produced from natural gas energy production. CCS is not an untested or even very new technology. The challenge for new CCS projects in the U.S. and Australia is that ideally the storage reservoir needs to be located near the energy production site; so for coal power in the US, this entails on-shore storage. On-shore storage has different engineering challenges versus off-shore storage and also requires stricter safety controls, as the storage sites are more closely located to human populations. This is why we are actively researching ways to ensure safe and predictable injection schemes. CDP: Based on your knowledge of Northwest Colorado or comparable regions of the USA or even the world, do you see carbon capture being harmful to their way of life?
herring: Implementing CCS will raise the cost of coal power production significantly. Whether that has an overall positive or negative effect on communities with economies based on coal is debatable. For independent coal mines, implementing CCS could be beneficial: power plants would have to buy more coal to produce the same amount of commercially available power because some of the power generated would have to be used to pressurize CO2 and pump it underground, so the demand for coal increases. Conversely, for power plants, this means implementing CCS would decrease profits, which is a cost they would likely pass on to consumers. But generally, consumers aren’t local, so I’m not sure how much that cost increase would affect the local community. Implementing CCS would require building new facilities for transport and storage, which would generate quite a lot of new jobs. It’s a complex issue, and I’m not an economist, but my understanding is that overall, implementing CCS would be a net positive economically to communities based around coal production. CdP: What are the ecological impacts positive or negative that could occur if carbon capture were used on a wide scale? herring: The main ecological benefit of CCS operations is that they severely limit or eliminate carbon emissions due to power production, which is necessary to reduce climate change impacts. But, CCS operations do have ecological risks: if the injected CO2 is not securely immobilized in the subsurface, CO2 could migrate away from the injection point and contaminate, or acidify,
groundwater or be released to the atmosphere, which is precisely the effect we are trying to avoid. In very specific geographic locations — like bowl-shaped areas, where a leak could occur in the lowlands — a CO2 leak could cause health impacts. CO2 is more dense than oxygen, so if CO2 is leaked at a high enough rate, it could displace the oxygen in the “bowl”, leading to low oxygen levels, which cause health issues or even death for human and animal population. This last scenario is a pretty unlikely risk, but it is something we need to take into account and work to prevent. My research is aimed at securely immobilizing CO2 in the subsurface to prevent exactly these kinds of effects. CdP: With a personal connection to mining, has your work been a contentious issue? herring: My dad works at a coal mine, but my research topic has never been a contentious issue in my family at all. Really, the challenges we face with climate change right now do not require an intrinsically anti-coal or anti-fossil fuel solution. They do require compromises on the part of the energy production industry and efficient, effective solutions, which can be implemented quickly. It is simply not an option to continue with our current energy production system as is. We need to keep promoting renewable energy development and start limiting our carbon emissions as soon as possible. I think the CCS approach to this problem is actually very compatible and considerate of communities who rely on our traditional fossil-fuel heavy methods of energy production.
A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press
The energy Blend
unit 1 — now set FoR RetiRement — buRns 5,000 tons oF Coal a day STORy & PHOTO By PATRICk kElly Since its completion in 1980, Craig Station’s 427-megawatt Unit 1 has burned coal to “keep the lights on.” Unit 1 alone combusts an average of 5,000 tons of coal each day and is one of three generating units at the 1,303-megawatt coal-fired power plant located just south of Craig in Moffat County, which burns about 1.5 million tons of coal every year. But at the beginning of September, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the station’s operator, announced that Unit 1 would be retired by the end of 2025. The news was upsetting for residents of Craig and Moffat County, who were still reeling from a 2015 court decision that had threatened to close two local coal mines. Craig Station employs about 283 people and Tri-State was Moffat County’s top tax contributor in 2015, paying $6.2 million — nearly triple the amount collected from the number-two taxpayer. One might think that closing one of three units at Craig Station would
mean a third of the jobs would be lost.
Moffat County — Trapper Mine and Colowyo Mine.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association spokesman lee Boughey said how the retirement affects the plant’s workforce is something the transition teams would need to assess.
Unit 1 gets 85 percent of its coal from Trapper, and it gets the remaining coal on the spot market. Unit 2 also gets 85 percent of its coal from Trapper. Unit 3’s coal comes from Colowyo.
“We have shared facilities there between the three units so it is going to take some analysis to understand what impacts closing Unit 1 will have on the workforce given the shared nature of those facilities,” he said.
Trapper Mine Manager Jim Mattern said Trapper is contracted to provide coal to Craig Station through 2020, and it has additional reserves ready for development.
The closing of Craig Station’s Unit 1 by 2025 may also affect the two Northwest Colorado coal mines that supply its coal. “Once Unit 1 is retired, Craig Station will burn less coal to produce electricity,” Boughey said. “As we go forward we will be evaluating the impacts that could have on the mines that supply the plant.” The 1,303-megawatt Craig Station receives all of its coal from two nearby mines just outside of Craig in
“It’s going to be business as usual for us for the next few years, and we do have reserves that would take us beyond that date,” he said.
community and decommissioning — and a transition manager to act as liaison. The employee and community transition teams will assist the affected plant workers and their communities while the decommissioning team will continue to evaluate the future of Unit 1 and alternatives for decommissioning. The same agreement shutting down Craig Station’s Unit 1 will also close Tri-State’s coal-fired Nucla Station by 2022 and cease coal production at New Horizon Mine. In total, the agreement retires 520 megawatts of coal-fired electricity generation and would lead to an “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,” according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
By 2035 exhaust will no longer billow from Unit 1’s stack, left, as the coal-fired generating unit is scheduled for retirement to meet state haze regulations. the community’s questions and address concerns. McInnes told the crowd of roughly 150 attendees he wouldn’t try to spin the situation as positive, but it turned out much better than he had hoped.
said. “We looked at switching fuels, we looked at other control possibilities, we took a look at everything we could to reduce the cost and still keep the unit operating under these new conditions.”
But at the end of the evaluation no alternatives could justify the expense “I hope over time as the pain, as the Mattern said Trapper would be anger goes away that will be appar- in the face of an increasingly harsh working with Tri-State throughout regulatory environment, unfavorable ent to you as well,” he said. the process but it is sticking to the market conditions and need for even routine in the meantime. In Moffat County, all of the top 10 The decision to close the 427-mega- more emission controls in the future. tax contributors are energy-related, watt generating unit came after Unit “We’re going to continue doing what and the community is passionate 1’s owner, the yampa Project, asked Instead, as part of a proposed reviwe do best and that’s just mine about its resources and industry. Tri-State to evaluate alternatives to sion to the Colorado Visibility and coal,” he said. installing costly nitrogen oxide emis- Regional Haze State Implementation In the wake of the announcement Plan (SIP), Tri-State entered into an sion controls mandated by state By the end of the year Tri-State about Unit 1, Tri-State hosted a com- regulations. agreement that will reduce hopes to have three types of transimunity meeting in Craig on Sept. 15 tion teams put in place — employee, “We looked at the gambit,” McInnes see unit 1 on page 7 with CEO Mike McInnes to answer
The Energy Blend
6 | November 2016
to pay all taxes that accrue while Peabody is in bankruptcy,” Horn said.
Peabody’s state of coal continues to decline in Routt County By Matt Stensland & Tom Ross Peabody Energy, owners and operators of the Twentymile Mine in Routt County, faced with a mountain of debt, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy April 14, creating uncertainty in communities that depend heavily on the energy giant for jobs. Peabody owns the Twentymile, an underground coal mine, and officials confirmed Aug. 9 that the company employs about 300 people at Routt County mine.
On June 9, the Craig Daily Press reported that Peabody has announced a plan to save roughly $40 to $45 million a year by cutting 250 salaried positions within the entire worldwide company “to create a leaner organization with lower costs.” The cuts will be carried out later this year. It’s not clear if or how the cuts will affect Twentymile.
Peabody’s Routt County property With about two-thirds of its employ- tax bill goes unpaid ees residing in Moffat County, the Mining occurs under about 40 economic impacts of Twentymile square miles of property owned by extend across county lines. the mine and as a result Twentymile In an email to State Rep. Diane pays the most property taxes in Mitsch Bush, sent this spring Routt County, according to Assessor from Peabody’s director of state Gary Peterson. government relations, Mike Blank, In Routt County, Peabody has said, “Employees will continue historically paid its property taxes to receive customary wages and in two installments. The second salaries, healthcare coverage and other benefits upon court approval, installment of 2015 taxes was tied which we expect to come quickly to up in bankruptcy court. allow us to continue to operate in Steamboat Today reported on June the ordinary course.” 20 that the $1.04 million in property taxes due to the South Routt Peabody started cutting U.S. jobs School District posed a potential in June
In response to a request for an interview by the Steamboat Today with Twentymile General Manager Pat Sollars on Aug. 10, Peabody Vice President of Corporate and almost immediate crisis, but that was forestalled by a $1 million Communications Beth Sutton loan from the Colorado Department replied: “We have court approval authorizing payment of $1.8 million of Education. And Routt County advanced a loan to the South Routt in Routt County property taxes and look forward to reaching agreement Medical Center to keep its doors with the treasurer’s office on the open. process, as we have already done Routt County Treasurer Britta Horn with most jurisdictions where we declined to accept the second por- operate.” tion of 2015 property taxes due in “My office is treating Peabody January 2015 from Peabody’s Twen- Energy like any other taxpayer tymile coal mine when Peabody’s that has delinquent taxes due. I offer to pay its overdue taxes did welcome Peabody to pay their denot include an offer to include linquent taxes with all the interest interest on the $1.77 million, which accrued and fees. To date, Peabody accrues at 1 percent per month. is unwilling to do so,” Horn said. Horn said Peabody’s bankruptcy lawyers offered to pay the original tax bill only if she agreed to an unsecured claim (as opposed to a claim secured by hard assets) to cover the interest and fees. Horn wrote that, all too often, that results in the creditor receiving pennies on the dollar.
More details of the delinquent property taxes including full text of pertinent email exchanges and documents are available at Steamboattoday.com using the search term “Peabody taxes.”
Horn added that Colorado treasurers are only authorized to waive interest or fees of less than $50.
Peabody Energy has backed away from plans to build the 400-acre Trout Creek Reservoir about 15 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs that would have provided
“Bankruptcy law requires Peabody
Peabody dam project is done for now
A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press
a reliable water source for mining operations as reported onAug. 25 in the Steamboat Today.
event it was to close.
Because the plan also included a proposed hydroelectric dam that would generate 125 kilowatts of electricity, Peabody was seeking approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.
To reclaim its mines, Peabody had historically been allowed to selfbond. That means Peabody could use its own assets to guarantee the money was available to reclaim its mines.
In 2015 Peabody asked for a twoyear extension in the permitting process so the company could conserve cash and reduce debt.
Guardians claimed Peabody no longer had the assets to self-bond.
Bonds were posed in response to the WildEarth Guardians The Trout Creek Reservoir would environmental group threat to sue have stored about 12,000 acre-feet Peabody on the basis that the comof water and would have cost an estimated $16 million to build and pany no longer had the finances to would have provided a permanent clean up its mines in New Mexico, source of water for coal washing at Wyoming and Colorado, asreported on Feb. 23 by the Steamboat Today. its nearby mines.
In August, FERC released a letter stating it was terminating the licensing process because Peabody had missed deadlines. Peabody could always restart their efforts if the time is right. More information about the project is provided on the Steamboattoday. com website using the search terms “Peabody Reservoir.” Financial resources for reclamation secured from Peabody The mining company posted bonds to ensure its Twentymile Mine in Routt County gets reclaimed in the
On April 11, the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety informed the federal regulators that it had received corporate surety bonds from Peabody to cover the full reclamation liability for its Colorado mines, as reported on April 29 by the Steamboat Today. To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, emailmstensland@ SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStenslandtTo reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday. com or follow him on Twitter @ ThomasSRoss1
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A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press
The energy Blend
deseRado mine Pays moRe in Fines than in moFFat County taXes By SASHA NElSON This year, underground coal mine Deserado has already paid more in fines to the U.S Department of labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration than it has paid to Moffat County for 2015 taxes. Sitting just 10 miles east of the Colorado-Utah border, the Deserado Mine employs about 170 miners and produces about two million tons of coal a year that is shipped via private railroad line to Deseret Power’s Bonanza Power Plant located south of Vernal, Utah.
accident. The mine “leases land for a small portion of the railroad line from Moffat County,” said David Crabtree, general counsel for Blue Mountain Energy which owns and operates Deserado mine. “And paid just over $65,000 in 2015 taxes to Moffat County.” This year the mine paid just under $900,000 in 2015 taxes for all holdings, including vacant land, agricultural land, personal property and minerals in Rio Blanco County.
The plant is a 500-megawatt coal-fired The fate of the mine is tied to power plant coal restrictions power station. The administration has cited the mine with almost 300 safety violations since the start of 2016 for which they have paid $73,549 in fines, have another $46,000 in proposed fines, with additional fines not yet assessed for 15 violations and seven violations moved forward for hearings.
Bonanza was set to be shuttered in 2016, according to information on the law 360 website, however a 2013 approved expansion of Deserado kept the mine and the plant going. yet it also garnered the attention of organizations concerned about the impact of mine expansion on air quality in the region.
In January 1996, a fire temporarily closed the mine and on Oct. 29 of that same year Ted Munford, a surface mechanic for the mine died when the raised bed of the Euclid haul truck that he was driving struck an overpass at the mine, said the Mine Safety and Health Administration report on the
last October two separate legal actions brought against the Environmental Protection Agency for failure to analyze the impact to air quality for the mine expansion and continued operation of the plant were brought forward by WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club.
Actions resulted in a settlement that restricts the Bonanza Plant in 2020 to burning no more than 20 million more tons of coal unless measures are taken to make major upgrades to the system to reduce air quality impacts said the settlement agreement made before the Environmental Appeals Board of the EPA. “Putting a lifetime limit on coal consumption gives Deseret the opportunity to create a plan to replace Bonanza with energy sources that will be cleaner, safer and more cost-effective than coal,” said Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign Nellis kennedyHoward. The Bonanza Power Plant is Deseret Power’s primary generating resource, according to their website.
unit 1 FRom Page 5 the unit’s production starting in 2020 and put it completely out of commission by Dec. 31, 2025, in exchange for not placing any new controls. McInnes said Tri-State could not overcome the obstacles facing Unit 1, but it had not turned its back on coal.
River Power Authority, Salt River Project, Public Service Company Colorado and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, WildEarth Guardians and the National Park Conservation Association.
Unit 2 and Unit 3 will continue to burn, but additional emissions “We will be supportive of the coal in- controls to meet the SIP are being dustry,” he said. “We will be fighting installed. against unneeded regulation — all WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and in an effort to deliver reliable and affordable power to our members.” Energy Program Director Jeremy Nichols said the shutdown is indicaRetiring the unit was an agreement tive of the coal industry’s overall between Tri-State, PacifiCorp, Platte decline.
“The writing on the wall is that the future for coal is really bleak,” he said. “This is a very concrete example of where things are going.” The CDPHE stated in a news release that the agreement would lead to an “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.”
Steam billows from a stack at Craig Station coal-fired power plant.
“There is no mine or plant closure date. The current lease is held for underground mine operations to 2030 and beyond,” Crabtree said. Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-8751794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress. com or follow her on Twitter @ CDP_Education.
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8 | November 2016
Northwest Colorado’s reclaimed land ideal for Columbian sharptailed grouse By Andy Bockelman The balance between nature and the energy industry is one that must maintain a careful equilibrium in order for both to move forward and thrive.
Canada, noted that while reclaimed mine land accounted for 1 percent of sharp-tailed grouse in Northwest Colorado, 18 percent of active leks — breeding areas — observed in a 2001 study were on this type of terrain. A further 2002 study showed “higher nesting success and survival” of the bird in comparison to other types of land.
lands can be, in many ways, more productive than the lands were before, and that’s especially true for sharp-tailed grouse.”
Seeing the success of the grouse on the reclaimed mining land, agencies including Colorado Parks & Wildlife made the move to reloRecent efforts by multiple agencate the grouse to the new spots in cies to relocate the Columbian the state to study their abilities to sharp-tailed grouse have proven Additional reports from 2004, 2007 continue to adapt. successful as Colorado Parks & and 2009 also support this data in “They were moved to areas where Wildlife began moving the species the committee’s report. we know where historically we from eastern Moffat County, westused to have those birds but don’t ern Routt County and portions of Reclaimed mining lands from currently, but the habitat is still in Rio Blanco County to nearby areas, Trapper Mine and Colowyo have good shape,” said Brian Holmes, a including Eagle County’s Wolcott served as consistent sites for the terrestrial biologist for CPW. and Grand County’s Middle Park. Columbian sharp-tailed grouse to not only survive but thrive. Holmes said the success of the The reason for this assisted migraColumbian sharp-tailed grouse on tion — which began in fall 2014 Forrest Luke, environmental man— was due to the species’ success ager for Trapper, has been involved reclaimed mine land has even led in rebuilding its population on rewith the sharp-tailed grouse project to a surplus and hunting season on claimed mining lands of Northwest for the better part of two decades. the bird in recent years. Relocation began with the males of the Colorado and organizers hope to species in fall 2014 followed by recreate the success of upping the “The purpose of this study is to the females the following spring in compare mine land reclamation numbers in similar landscapes. reserve programs, such as at Trap- order to keep the birds that saw A 2015 report by Western Agencies per, as a model for what they’d like their ranks bolstered in reclamaSage and Columbian Sharp-Tailed to see these other lands become in tion areas do the same in other sections of Colorado. Grouse Technical Committee, focus- terms of community diversity,” he ing on conserving the avian species said. “I think we’ve pretty consisin the Western United States and tently demonstrated that reclaimed Holmes said the method used by And, for at least one area of the country, bird is the word.
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area mines is welcoming to many species of animals. “It’s a short-term use of the land, and when the reclamation comes back, the critters respond well,” he said. “Elk in particular like those areas, and they have a lot of security there because they’re pretty near the operation, and it’s not accessible to the public and it’s kind of a little refuge area for them in certain circumstances. That relatively small footprint of an active mine with blasting and draglines doesn’t host a ton of wildlife, but these companies tend to do quite well with reclamation.” As far as the Columbian sharptailed grouse, Holmes said about 13 breeding sites can be found on Trapper’s property with several hundred birds. The hope is that the relocated animals can keep going strong in new sites, adding that about 150 total birds will be transplanted to the Wolcott site in all.
or growth, that’s a success for us,” he said. “Obviously, these numbers are going to change through time depending on weather conditions and natural processes. Basically, we want them to establish breeding sites and then have them persist or increase.”
Maintaining an exact quota of grouse in the new sites is hard to estimate, Holmes said, which is why CPW is focused on reaching an achievable goal.
While a large number of the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse have made their home around Trapper, Holmes said a number of birds that were relocated were moved from Colowyo in anticipation of their Collom expansion, which will temporarily displace some grouse habitat lands.
“We don’t have an ultimate population goal, but what we’d like to see is population persistence
“It’s one of the first instances where we kind of went in and did that in advance, and Colowyo’s been a tremendous partner with us on that,” he said. “The timing there just dovetailed together well to give us a logical place to take birds from. Colowyo, Trapper, Peabody, all the big mines have all been great about helping us with research.” Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@ CraigDailyPress.com.
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10 | November 2016
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solaR PoweR helPs moFFat County animals to dRinK PHOTOS & STORy By MICHAEl NEARy The streaming mid-July sunshine seemed to illustrate Vance Fulton’s point about the effectiveness of solar energy in Northwest Colorado. Fulton, an engineering technician with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, described the way solar energy provides an effective way for landowners to transport water to their livestock. “Especially around here, (landowners) have found that solar is a much more efficient way to pump water than the old windmills,” Fulton said. And now, with the birth of the Sage Grouse Initiative, the solar-powered systems are receiving increasing amounts of federal support. Fulton said the systems have received funding through the Farm Bill for decades — but for the last several years, SGI has targeted more money for the solar-powered projects in places where the sage grouse is affected, such as Moffat County. Surprising as it may seem at first glance, the creation of multiple water sources for cattle helps sage grouse too. The system often works this way: A solar panel powers a pump that
drives water through an underground pipeline, and the pipeline delivers the water to troughs at various points in the land so that animals can drink. The pump often fills up a storage tank for a backup water supply, as well.
on a pond or a stream.
The system, as Fulton explained it, creates an efficient means of supplying water to animals on the land. By creating several water sources, the system also eases stress on the ponds, puddles and streams where animals may gather to drink. That benefits a host of creatures — including the sage grouse.
yarbrough said much of the funding to install solar pumping systems in Moffat County is generated by the SGI, launched by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 2010.
“The grasses and (other plants) then have a chance to grow,” he said — something that’s good for sage grouse and lots of other species, as well.
Fulton said the NRCS works with about 20 landowners in Moffat County on solar watering systems, and he noted there may be others Chris yarbrough, formerly a biolousing solar power, as well. It’s a gist with the Rocky Mountain Elk number that’s far larger, he said, Foundation, who is now regional habitat biologist for Idaho Fish and than it was about a decade ago, Game, explained how a water system before the SGI. such as this can help sage grouse. One of the Moffat County landownIf there’s only one pond on a ranch, ers who uses solar-powered system he said, that’s where the cows will is Doug Davis, who has a ranch congregate. called Davis Family Farm llC that lies in the eastern part of the county. “That area will probably get overgrazed, and you’ll probably get a lot “We discovered a very good water of weeds — things that aren’t good source up high, and because it’s for wildlife,” he said. up high you can use gravity flow,” Davis said. But water troughs scattered throughout the land can attract animals to Davis explained that the solar panel different spots, easing the pressure
This is one of the troughs — or watering facilities — on Doug Davis’s property that receives water thanks to gravity and solar power. Vance Fulton analyzes.
on this ranch pumps water from the well into a storage tank — and from that storage tank, gravity allows the water to flow through pipes to troughs throughout the property. Davis said that, on another property, he uses the solar-powered pump to push water directly to the troughs. Either way, Davis said he’s glad to be using solar energy. He used to use windmills, which could be tough to maintain and less reliable.
As Fulton walked through Davis’s land on that sunny July day, he pointed to some small nuances in the equipment, including strategically placed fencing to protect the plumbing from the animals drinking from the troughs, and a “small animal escape ramp” to let otherwise trapped animals climb to safety.
even continue to pump on a slightly cloudy day.”
Fulton said the solar-powered system works without batteries, which means that energy is transferred directly to the pumps. It also means that the amount of energy may vary from day to day, depending on the supply of sunlight at a given time. That’s where the agility of the pumps comes into play.
Fulton said, too, that advances in technology — in the pumps and the solar panels — have made the system even better than it used to be.
“Windmills are much higher maintenance, and the wind does not blow as consistently as the sun shines,” he said. “Solar, which has turned out to be a low-maintenance, relatively low-cost proposition for us, “These pumps are able to work on variable voltage,” he said. “They’ll is a winner.”
Storing water during the sunny days, Fulton said, creates a water supply to use on the cloudy ones. “you store water instead of storing electricity,” he said.
“It got more dependable, more efficient through the years,” he said — a sign that the sun soaking ranches throughout the county will be put to good use for many more years to come.
Vance Fulton, an engineering technician with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, stands next to a solar energy panel on the property of Doug Davis.
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haRnessing the sun
“It has met the goal and is striving to continue to meet the goal going forward,” Hildred said.
By MATT STENSlAND
A Holy Cross customer installing a 15-kilowatt system would receive an $8,100 rebate.
Community solar garden located in Craig continues to offer opportunities for yvea customers to own solar without installing it on a rooftop
to build the solar garden and get it running in January 2015. Rather than making the investment in an entire system of their own, yVEA customers could buy individual panels at the garden for $601.
From a hillside along Moffat County Road 177 in Craig, it is clear who the big energy player is in the region. The projected electricity savings during the first year was $45 per In 2015, 2.1 million tons of coal was panel. It is projected those who buy recovered from Trapper Mine, where a panel will recoup their investment a dragline could be seen removing in 16 years. dirt from the underlying coal seam. “We experienced subpar perforAt the $1.2 billion Craig Station mance with this facility due to power plant, sitting on 1,120 acres, snow, ice-damming and also some the capacity exists to produce hardware issues,” said Tim Braun, 1,303 megawatts of power at any director of public affairs for Clean time, enough to power more than Energy Collective. 200,000 homes. “To minimize this impact movBetween the power plant and Traping forward, we have employed a per Mine is the community solar new operations and maintenance garden — a 577-kilowatt system that system, revised our protocol for sits on four acres. Given how much snow and ice removal, completed a land the solar garden uses, it would comprehensive inverter audit and need to be 9,033 acres to produce made some preemptive system as much power as the neighboring adjustments to ensure optimum perpower plant. formance, and have coordinated a full inspection of the system, check“That hillside is only going to proing all components and incremental duce so much (coal),” yampa Valley performance ‘tip-to-tail’ to confirm Electric Association foreman John that the system is functioning Cromer said while walking through properly and to spec,” he said. the solar garden. “We have a lot to gain by being a part of a facility The garden is currently 85 percent like this.” sold. It is evident that some residents do not like the idea of green energy being produced in their backyards, because it competes with their livelihood.
“We would like to see it at 100 percent sold out, but I think we are pleased where it’s at after a year,” Johnson said.
Those who purchase a panel can The regional economy relies on the track the performance of the array coal industry. It employs hundreds of from a smartphone. people, but there are no jobs at the solar garden. Customers receive a corresponding credit on their electricity bills. “There were some miners that were upset about this,” said Cromer, a Any yVEA customer can buy into the Craig native and third-generation solar garden, which presents an lineman. opportunity for renters. If customers move from the yVEA territory, they That sentiment gives a glimpse into can sell their panels. the fact that not everyone is behind the green energy movement, and yVEA is planning another solar array yampa Valley Electric Association, for the yampa Valley that will benefit or yVEA, believes a majority of its customers with low incomes. customers are not willing to pay According to yVEA, there are currentmore for their electricity to cover incentives offered to people who in- ly 52 solar installations connected stall solar or other renewable energy. to the yVEA distribution network. “We find that our members are not inclined to doing that,” said yVEA General Manager Diane Johnson. Despite that, some businesses, homeowners and governments are making the investment and soaking in the savings a penny at a time. gardening energy The solar garden in Craig provides a unique opportunity for yVEA and its customers who want to add solar to their energy portfolio. “I think that we’ve come to believe the community solar array model is a great model,” Johnson said. yVEA partnered with the for-profit Clean Energy Collective company
Getting over hurdles Matt Piva owns Brightside Solar, based in Steamboat, his company primarily does residential installations for houses both on and off the electricity grid. He said there are a few challenges that exist in the residential solar market. “The biggest hurdle is that, ultimately, you are paying for your electricity up front,” Piva said. “A lot of people don’t have that capital.” Piva said a good solar system capable of powering a home can cost between $20,000 and $30,000. He said the only tax credit currently
offered to residential customers to install solar in Northwest Colorado is the 30 percent income tax credit. Additionally, residences that do not use all of the power produced by the solar units can take advantage of net metering, which gives consumers credit for electricity sent back onto the grid.
The 577-kilowatt community solar garden system sits on four acres, between the power plant and Trapper Mine, and would need to be 9,033 acres to produce as much power as the neighboring power plant.
last year, the utility paid out $1 million in incentives to customers who installed renewable energy. There is a total of 5,750 kilowatts of renewable energy in the Holy Cross network.
“My message that I try to get out to people is doing solar electricity is affordable,” Piva said.
last year, about 11 percent of the power used to supply Holy Cross’s customers came from renewable energy produced locally.
He said array owners will see an increase in property values by installing solar, and they can expect to pay off their systems within seven to 10 years.
About 1 percent of yVEA’s power comes from renewable energy produced locally. yVEA is already meeting the 1-percent state requirement that goes into effect in 2020.
have shown customers respond positively to the idea of renewable energy, but it is a different response when customers are asked if they Susan Holland, with Emerald In order to make systems more affordable, Piva is working on ways to Mountain Energy, hopes that number would be willing to pay more for it. help customers finance the projects increases and there will be a shift in the thinking of yVEA customers and Before the Craig solar garden was so little or no money is needed up built, yVEA asked its residential the elected board of directors. The front. association serves a 7,000-square- customers in a 2013 survey if they would be “somewhat” or “very likely” mile area, including parts of Providing incentives to buy solar panels in the solar Wyoming. garden. Fifty-six percent of those surSome energy experts believe incentives will continue to play a key role “If it was a normal market, and they veyed said they were. yet, only 130 did offer incentives, I’d be doing 65 of yVEA’s 26,000 customers have in the solar evolution. bought panels. projects per year,” Holland said. “I According to the Solar Energy Indus- hope it shifts soon, because I don’t “Based on these numbers, there tries Association, the trade group want to give up.” doesn’t seem to be a substantial that represents solar businesses, the interest in renewables,” yVEA spokesJohnson said one of the tools yVEA 30 percent income tax credit has helped solar installation grow 1,600 uses to gather feedback is customer woman Tammi Strickland said. “If we have members that are interested surveys. She said previous surveys percent since the tax credit was in renewables, we feel we have the implemented in 2006.
ability to provide them with that service, as we still have plenty of available blocks or panels at the solar garden.” Johnson said the yVEA customer base varies. While customers in the Steamboat area may be willing to pay more for using renewable energy, customers in other areas are not as interested. “They would just like the bill to be as inexpensive as possible,” Johnson said. To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, emailmstensland@ SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland
In 2015 the tax credit was extended to 2023. “I think without the tax credit part of it, the return on investment is just dismal for most people,” Johnson said. The trade group estimates there were 27 gigawatts of solar produced in the U.S. in 2015, and they expect that to grow to 100 gigawatts by the end of 2020. They also expect solar jobs to double to 420,000. A group of solar enthusiasts gathered in November at the Moots bicycle factory in Steamboat, where the company has a nine-kilowatt system on its roof. With grants and tax credits, the company had to pay about 10 percent of the cost. Megan Moore kemp, who works as a key accounts representative for yVEA, explained how some electric cooperatives such as yVEA offer incentive programs. “Other co-ops do offer incentives for solar,” Moore kemp said. “Our members have not really told us that that’s what they want to pay for.” The Holy Cross Energy co-op, serving Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties established its WE CARE program (With Efficiency, Conservation and Renewable Energy) in 2004. Holy Cross’s 55,000 customers all pay a 2 percent surcharge that generates $2 million annually. Chris Hildred, who oversees the WE CARE program said a progressive Holy Cross board of directors voted for the surcharge.
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12 | November 2016
The energy Blend
A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press
A new solar array in the yampa Valley will help cut the cost of electricity for families who qualify to be a part of the program. (photo by John Russell)
seCond solaR gaRden in the valley assists PeoPle with low inComes By TOM ROSS
We are here for Craig & Moffat County 100% This second edition of The Energy Blend provides the Craig City Council an opportunity to let the community know how committed its elected ofﬁcials are to protecting this industry that drives a signiﬁcant portion of our economy and contributes greatly to our civic pride. As a Council, we are constantly reminded that Moffat County has large deposits of the cleanest coal in the nation – coal that is high in energy content (BTUs) yet low in mercury and sulfur. Our greatest export, this coal is used to generate affordable, reliable electricity for hundreds of thousands of customers throughout the region. And just as the coal is a source of pride, so too are the mining operations that take it from the earth and the power plant that converts it into electric power. Together, Craig Station, Colowyo Mine and Trapper Mine provide hundreds of well-paying jobs and millions of dollars in direct and indirect economic activity, including property taxes, severance taxes and royalties. Given the importance of our energy industry, the Craig City Council: • Supports a viable coal industry that continues to leverage the most efﬁcient and environmentally friendly technologies available to ensure responsible, fully compliant operations. • Is extremely concerned about the recent onslaught of unreasonable and unachievable regulations that would take coal off the table just as our nation’s energy needs are rising along with our desire for energy independence. • Believes regulations should be sensible and scientiﬁcally-based to protect human health and the environment while also encouraging business development and job creation. Please feel free to reach out to any of your City Council Members at 970-826-2000. Visit us online: ci.craig.co.us
The cobalt September sky and mild temperatures in the high 60s provided the perfect atmosphere for small packs of volunteers in yellow vests and hard hats, who were installing a new solar array on the Steamboat Springs campus of yampa Valley Electric Association. The array will help cut the cost of electricity for families who qualify to be a part of the program. “Seventy degrees is the optimum ambient temperature for solar generation,” Jeff Bintz said. “Heat is resistance. Cold is better than hot.” And even a little reflective snow on solar panels on a winter morning can improve solar panel performance. That’s good news for solar generation in the sometimes extreme climate of Northwest Colorado. Bintz is the construction manager for the nonprofit solar installation firmGRID Alternatives, which received a $1.2 million grant from the Colorado Energy Office last year to partner with utilities such as yVEA to create affordable access to solar in rural areas of the state. The new array at yVEA is the fourth project resulting from that grant and is expected to serve 35 or more households. But it’s about much more than that. Interested in accessing GRID’s affordable solar program?
E-mail Cooklin at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. “Equity and access to solar has been a huge issue,” Joe Pereira, of the Colorado Energy Office,” said Friday in the midst of a community celebration of the new solar garden, which is easily visible from Elk River Road just north of its intersection with U.S. Highway 40.
hardware on solar panels and husband, Glenn, was helping to lift them into place. Harry Jeffries, of london, England, was on sabbatical from his job as an appraiser for a large real estate company and volunteered for the project in order to gain insights in how to value solar installations.
Pereira was referring to the reality that middle- to low-income households that don’t have thousands of dollars to invest upfront are typically shut out of accessing alternative forms of energy. Rural electrical cooperatives such as yampa Valley Electric Association, Grand Valley Power, Holy Cross Energy and Delta-Montrose Electric Association are taking a leadership role in working with nonprofits to make affordable solar happen.
Another member of the crew was 31-year yVEA service department employee Mike Seick, who climbed a ladder to bolt the solar panels in place.
“We feel the co-ops are the key because they are member owned,” Pereira said.
In addition to extending solar to modest-income households, the new array creates
He added that the leadership of the rural cooperatives has been instrumental in inspiring the major power utility Xcel Energy to agree to make a significant investment in providing community solar to low- to middle-income households in the next three years.
workforce training, both for her employees and the 50 women who came from across the region and across the country last week to obtain skills that are fundamental to the solar industry.
GRID Executive Director Chuck Watkins agreed and praised the Colorado Energy Office and yVEA.
“The number-one problem in the solar industry is there’s not access Brandee Cooklin, SolarCorps to low- to modest-income families. outreach fellow for GRID AlternaAnd they are the ones that will tives, said a number of people have benefit the most,” he said. already applied to receive power Also benefitting from the solar infrom the new solar array intended stallation were the volunteers who for moderate- to low-income turned out this week for a hands-on households. The first step is to fill experience. Audrey Pritchard, of out a questionnaire intended to pre-qualify a household’s eligibility. Craig, was putting attachment
“We’ve seen a lot of changes,” Seick said. yVEA CEO Diane Johnson told her audience Sept. 16 that she was drawn to the GRID’s program because it works on several levels.
“We chose this (project) because it’s right here in our backyard, literally,” Johnson said, and “allows our employees — engineers, line crews (and more) — to become competent and comfortable with solar electricity. The advantage is that we own it, and we will maintain it. We’re looking forward to that challenge.” To reach Tom Ross, call 970-8714205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ ThomasSRoss1
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of turbine construction on local water quality; ice throw in cold climates, which takes place when built-up ice is thrown from a turbine blade; dangers to aviation and several other issues, said the By Danielle Elkins 2015 Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines for Wind Energy Land rights and permits come into by the World Bank Group. Have you ever walked outside on to all Coloradans,” said Colorado success because the wind blows play as part of those variables one of the many windy days and Gov. John Hickenlooper during a down to the Great Plains level. Robichaud mentioned. AWEA There are regulations in place by wondered why Craig doesn’t have 2015 wind energy report released said that developers must secure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “Wind speed alone does not a site for wind energy production? at a Vestas wind turbine compoadequate land rights from private to address and minimize these determine if a site is a ‘good wind nent factory near Denver. Driving through other parts of site’ or not,” Robichaud said, “It is owners or public agencies, mean- concerns. The FWS enforces, as part of the U.S. Department of Colorado, one may look over to There are, however, specific guide- one of a number of variables that ing that lease agreements come into play in the process. Develop- Interior, several laws that are see hundreds of towering wind lines to choosing wind energy all weigh into the equation of a turbines in rows lining the road facilities. potential project — whether it’s a ers must also secure permits from relevant to wind energy development and its effects on wildlife, with their massive blades spinning large 200-megawatt wind farm, a all levels of government. First, American Wind Energy Asincluding the Migratory Bird Treaty in the breeze. Seeing wind farms 250-kilowatt dedicated to meeting sociation said that turbines need the load of a handful of municipal To keep down costs, wind turbines Act, the Endangered Species Act in other parts of the state may and the Bald and Golden Eagle provoke the question for many lo- to be located in an area where buildings or a 10-kilowatt turbine should be located in an area where there is access to adequate Protection Act. These statutes apwind blows at least 11 miles per cal residents, “Could a wind farm for powering an off-grid home. hour on average. A wind speed be built in Craig?” Every project has different values and available transmission capac- ply to development on public and ity and proximity to existing lines, private lands, said AWEA. map from the National Renewable associated with those project according to AWEA. The U.S. Energy Information AsEnergy Lab in Denver shows that variables, but if enough are Although there are many requiresociation reports that wind energy Craig’s wind speed is around 5 positive and someone can either Developers must secure a utility or ments to be met for wind power provided 4.7 percent of the 4 or 5.5 meters per second, which make money at it or meet other trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity converts to around 11 or 12 mph important project goals — such as other entity to purchase the power siting, as well as variables to be generated from the wind turbines reviewed and concerns to take generated in the United States on average. obtaining 50 percent of electricity and, in order to build and operate into consideration, there are in 2015. In 2014, Colorado was from renewable resources — then Senior Engineer for National Wind they usually try to move forward.” it, they also need an investor, said incentives. the country’s 10th largest windAWEA. Technology Center at NREL in producing state. The U.S. Department of Energy Denver, Robi Robichaud, explained In terms of renewable resources, There are also environmental, said that its Wind Power Program that although Craig technically “In 2015, Colorado ranked fifth electricity in Craig would be health and safety concerns with works to accelerate the deployin the nation for wind power has adequate wind speed for wind cheaper through hydro-power, he the siting of wind energy facilities. ment of wind power. A few incencapacity additions. An investment energy production, according to added. Some of these concerns are the tives that the program offers for in the wind power industry and in AWEA’s standard, the city isn’t noise from wind turbines and wind power are tax credits, loan wind projects generates new jobs, particularly windy in comparison “You have to compare your their construction; environmental guarantees, grants, education and economic development in rural to areas east of the Rocky Moun- renewable resources to see which effects of wind energy on birds, technical resources for developcounties and clean air benefits tains where wind farms have more would be the more economical bats and other wildlife; impacts
Is Craig a good candidate for wind farms?
option,” Robichaud said. “But if Craig simply wanted to become more “green,” it wouldn’t hurt to investigate further into what it would take to build a couple of residential or community turbines there.”
ment on tribal lands, and bonds that allow qualified state, tribal and local government issuers to borrow money at attractive rates to fund programs for wind power facilities. The answer to the question, “Could a wind farm be built in Craig?” is maybe, but it doesn’t seem likely. “When Tri-State receives proposed wind projects, they are usually for the Eastern Plains region. For renewable resource projects to be competitively priced, you need good resources. The wind on the plains is generally the best for producing wind energy,” said senior manager of communications and public affairs at Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Lee Boughey, in reference to the possibility of wind energy in Craig. While it’s a possibility, there are a number of variables that would have to be taken into consideration first. The fact that it isn’t the most economical renewable energy option for this area makes the future of wind energy in Craig seem bleak.
Transmission line routed through Moffat County By Patrick Kelly The planned transmission line project that has been in development for nearly a decade is nearing the end of the planning phase and is poised to be an important source of income for the county. On its 730-mile route from a wind farm in Wyoming to a terminal just south of Las Vegas, the 600-kilovolt, direct-current TransWest Express Transmission Project makes a 90mile cut through Moffat County. Garry Miller, vice president of land and environmental affairs for TransWest Express, said the line could bring between $600,000 and $900,000 in property tax revenue to Moffat County.
scoping for an environmental impact Also, there was an issue with finding statement (EIS) and issued its a route through the county. The notice of intent. proposed route comes down from Wyoming along Colorado Highway The draft EIS was issued in July 13 and threads a needle through 2013 and was finalized by April state land north of Highway 40 2015. before continuing west to Utah. Miller said throughout the process, the BLM has been very thorough with its assessments and that is why the project has been in development for so long. “The BLM really has looked at all of the resources in quite a bit of detail,” he said.
The small parcel of land was the only area where the line could come through the county because of issues with an access road to Dinosaur National Monument that could not be crossed.
“It’s a stupid highway is what it is, and they’re treating it is as if it’s Despite the fact that the line will be monument land,” Moffat County Natural Resource Director Jeff caring electricity generated from a renewable source, the environmental Comstock said. The line would start at wind farm studies were as rigorous as always. Comstock said the National Park outside of Rawlins and deliver 3,000 Service wouldn’t budge on allowing “There have been no shortcuts, ” megawatts of capacity into the the line to cross its road, and the Miller said. southwest region, which includes proposed line is a result. southern California, southern Miller said the transmission line Nevada and parts of Arizona. probably could have been much “They threw a fit and wouldn’t let it further along if it wasn’t for all the happen,” he said. Miller said the project was first work done to take into account conceived back around 2004 and With a proposed route in place, his company took over development greater sage grouse habitat. Miller said he is expecting a deciand asked the Bureau of Land Mansion on approval from BLM and the agement to start the environmental “A lot of time was spent looking at sage grouse and the avoidance and Western Area Power Administratio process in 2008. minimization of impact to grouse In January 2011, BLM began public habitat,” he said. See Transmission on page 14
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The energy Blend
14 | November 2016
A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press
oil and gas leases in noRthwest ColoRado Questioned in FedeRal lawsuit
Corrigan said if the lawsuit is successful and the leases are overturned, he believes the economic impact would be more visible in Moffat County.
By PATRICk kElly
Moffat County Commissioner John kinkaid said he is increasingly frustrated by Guardians’ presence in Northwest Colorado.
Oil and gas leases in Moffat and Routt counties were recently called out in a multi-state lawsuit against two federal agencies.
cumulative impacts of oil and gas leasing.
The lawsuit states that between 2008 and 2010, “(greenhouse gas) The claim was filed by the environ- emissions from onshore federal oil mental advocacy group WildEarth and gas reserves resulted in the reGuardians and Physicians for Social lease of 612,309,429 metric tons Responsibility at the end of August of carbon dioxide equivalent.” and identifies 397 oil and gas The term carbon dioxide equivalent leases across 379,960 acres of describes all greenhouse gases as pubic land in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. The Guardians claim the a common unit — for any amount leases were not properly evaluated and kind of greenhouse gas, it sigby the Bureau of land Management nifies the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the equivalent and Interior Department before global warming impact. approval. According to a news release from Guardians, “leasing conveys a right to companies to drill and frack as long as they want, meaning large swaths of public lands have been transformed into major industrial sites at the expense of recreation, wildlife, and clean air and water.” In its claim, Guardians assert that BlM and the Interior Department did not follow the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, when approving the leases and has failed to consider the direct, indirect and
Of the 397 leases questioned in the lawsuit, 152 are in Colorado across 110,841 acres in the Pawnee National Grassland north of Denver, BlM-managed lands in the yampa River Valley and the HD Mountain east of Durango. All of the leases are from 2015 and 2016. Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director Jeremy Nichols said the goal is to ask the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to void the challenged leases, or at
least enjoin any drilling. “We’re asking for the court to say BlM broke the law in determining that it was appropriate to issue these leases and the remedy is to overturn them,’” he said. Nichols said Guardians is also hoping the lawsuit will prompt a moratorium on new oil and gas leases while a comprehensive overview of the federal leasing program is completed — similar to what the Interior Department has undertaken with federal coal leasing.
needs to go back to the drawing board and address those issues,” he said. But he said he does not support the idea of pausing all federal oil and gas leasing. “That doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me, especially if the federal government’s goal is to reduce CO2 emissions,” he said. “The quickest and easiest way to do that is by increased production and use of natural gas.”
“I was angry with WildEarth Guardians before, now I’m livid,” he said. kinkaid said he plans to channel the energy into “making Moffat County better” and advocating for the area. “I’ll do everything I can as a commissioner to fight against this action,” he said. “We’re going to keep Moffat County moving forward in spite of WildEarth Guardians.”
In addition to asking that the leases be voided and a review of the leasing program be preformed, one of the lawsuit’s major themes is connecting greenhouse gasses produced from oil and gas use to climate change. “The Interior Department is in climate denial,” Guardians staff attorney Samantha Ruscavage-Barz said in a statement. “We’re breaking global temperature records every month and every month Interior ignores climate impacts and leases more and more oil and gas from public lands. When does it stop?” Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-8751795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress. com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.
“BlM needs to push the pause button when it comes to oil and gas leasing throughout the west,” he said. Routt County Commissioner Timothy Corrigan said if the federal government made a mistake with the leases in question, then it should be amended. “If there were some technical glitches in the leasing process around the federal government’s due diligence on NEPA requirements, then the federal government
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Tanks and seperators associated with oil and gas wells dot the landscape in northwestern Moffat County east of Moffat County Road 10 North, an area rich in natural gas known as the Hiawatha Field. (File photo)
tRansmission FRom Page 13 (WAPA) by the end of the year. WAPA has been involved in the transmission project’s environmental process and overall development since 2009 through its Transmission Infrastructure Program (TIP). “The TIP program is really a great program that is looking to get the right infrastructure and interconnect the renewables that we need in the west,” WAPA public affairs specialist Jen Neville said. “This is one of those great projects to work on.” If the line is eventually constructed, WAPA is entitled to 50 percent ownership and will have to decide what its level of participation will be post-development.
“We’re assessing through market and financial analysis what our ownership would be in that project,” Neville said. WAPA, as part of the Department of Energy, would not pay taxes on its share of the line and if they take a lesser interest the tax revenue paid by TransWest would go up. “It’s dependent on a lot of factors,” Miller said. “Market conditions and such.” There would also be a bit of an economic boom while the line is constructed, but it wouldn’t be too notable, Comstock said. “There will be a small time period during construction that we will benefit economically but it’s not like a power plant,” he said.
Another power line, Gateway South Transmission line, is also being considered for approval by the BlM and its route would be collocated with the TransWest Express line. An environmental impact statement was released in May 2015 and the line faced many of the same planning challenges as the TransWest line but is anticipated to bring the same economic benefits to Moffat County. Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-8751795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress. com or follow him on Twitter @M_ PKelly.
A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press
The Energy Blend
Remapping greater sage grouse habitat balances development and conservation
about what we think is the right way to do this process,” he said.
By Patrick Kelly
David Boyd, public affairs specialist for the BLM Northwest Colorado District, said BLM’s adoption of the map into its management plan depends on the level of change.
Once the process is complete, CPW will supply the new map to the BLM.
these things together than we are apart or being adversarial about them,” he said. The level of cooperation and collaboration was also unique to Petersen.
“We have county government, we have Parks and Wildlife, we have representation from the governor’s office, we have folks from the Department of “Some smaller changes we can incorporate pretty easily,” he said. “If Local Affairs who oversee the energy there’s major changes, we would need impact funds,” she said. “We’ve got a to do additional analysis and it would pretty broad spectrum of supporters take longer.” in this effort.” The biggest concern over the current map for counties like Moffat is the expansive tracts of land that are listed as priority habitat and how that would affect future development.
Aside from ensuring scientific accuracy and allowing local economies to grow, the remapping effort also helps keep further federal involvement in the bird’s protection at bay.
“We come in as a county because our economy is affected and our social “[It] shores up our defense with the economic environment is drastiFish and Wildlife Service and shows cally affected by inaccurate data,” that we’re taking this stuff serious Comstock said. as humans protecting this species,” Comstock said with a properly Riggs said. researched map, the county can balance effective conservation with Comstock said additional advantages responsible land use. of remapping are effective conserva“We believe we can protect the birds tion and allowing local economies to thrive. He is confident the effort will and have use of federal land,” he said. be a success. Riggs said this mapping effort is unique in the fact that several counties came together to secure funding and work with state and federal regulators to reach a solution.
Courtesy Image impacts on the energy sector, the primary concern was its accuracy.
“We’re better off working through
Regional Manager Dean Riggs said CPW traditionally provides information to the BLM and is considered the species expert for the state.
“Quite honestly, there was a need to address this accuracy issue of habitat The original map in the management mapping,” Moffat County Natural plan was provided by CPW, and Riggs Resources Department Director Jeff said it was admittedly not the most Comstock said. accurate resource. In the summer of 2015, before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided Comstock said the existing map put “It doesn’t get down to exact locaall types of land use at risk. not to list the bird as endangered, tions of grouse on the landscape the Bureau of Land Management “All of the uses of federal lands have and does include a broad-brush released its management plan for a sage grouse evaluation component look at where they live in the state of greater sage grouse in Colorado. with them,” he said. “BLM doesn’t Colorado,” he said. The Northwest Colorado Greater Sage permit any of these activities without To ensure scientific accuracy, effeclooking at their impacts on sage Grouse Resource Management Plan tive conservation and responsible grouse.” includes 10 counties and sets the development of resources, CPW has guidelines for future land developFortunately, BLM’s resource manage- joined up with the engineering firm ment. ment plan has stipulations to take hired by AGNC to study grouse habitat into account new, more accurate in northwest Colorado. Included in the document is a map information. Moffat County along with of the northwest part of the state Petersen said the consultant, Olsson covered in red splotches delineating the six other counties that make up Associated Governments of Northwest Associates, is running data through priority sage grouse habitat. Colorado were able to secure funding two different models to see where the data crosses over on both models. If for a remapping project. Of Moffat County’s approximately it does overlap, it is likely to be good three million acres, about 75 percent AGNC Executive Director Bonnie — 2.27 million acres — is considered Petersen said the members of AGNC grouse habitat. If not, on the ground verification will be performed. grouse habitat by the BLM. Of that agreed the map was very broad land, nearly 1.3 million, or 43 percent and sought a Department of Local “Where the data crosses over, then of Moffat County, is considered prior- Affairs Grant to “more accurately map that looks like it is definitely good ity habitat. grouse habitat,” she said. “In the habitat in Northwest Colorado.” areas that the data does not overlap, Considering the map and the regula- “We told DOLA what we wanted to do then the plan is to go out and do tions that came along with it — no was have some consultants look at some on-the-ground verification.” new leasing within one mile of active data and identify where the habitat mating areas in both priority and gen- really is and essentially verify that Right now, they are still in the middle eral habitat and surface occupancy of the modeling and hope to conduct habitat by doing some field verificarestrictions that would prevent devel- tion,” she said. field studies next spring and fall. opment, including horizontal drilling for resources — many of the counties With funding secured, one of the most Riggs said there has been a decent it affected were concerned it would amount of “back and forth” between important parts of the project was stifle not only oil and gas developbringing Colorado Parks and Wildlife the consultants and CPW, but the ment but all types of land use. on board to make the mapping effort firms is coming around and cooperating. official. Given the strict restrictions associated “I would say Olson is learning a lot with the map and potential negative CPW Northwest Region Deputy
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Although it avoided an endangered species listing, the greater sage grouse has remained a source of controversy and consternation for Northwest Colorado — especially when it comes to oil and gas development.
“It would be unimaginable for anybody to look at this and say our effort doesn’t provide new, better information,” Comstock said.
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16 | November 2016
The Energy Blend
A Supplement To The Craig Daily Press