More than 250 miners, low income consumers, and others gathered from all corners of the state of Colorado to rally for affordable energy at the State Capitol here in Denver. On a beautiful and clear sunny afternoon, CMA President Stuart Sanderson urged the crowd to tell the Public Utilities Commission to “keep coal in the energy mix.”
And he took direct aim at the statements by anti-mining special interests who would seek to displace affordable energy in Colorado with high priced natural gas from outside the state. “Since the 1970s, coal use has tripled, but the air has gotten cleaner, and emissions are down by more than 60%,” he told the crowd. “But state lawmakers didn’t care; they were too busy cozying up to the natural gas interests who are trying to take your jobs and raise your electricity rates,” he added.
And he was not alone.
Rich Chirco, Manager of Corporate Relations, Food Bank of the Rockies, told the crowd that “49% of clients served by the Food Bank report that they must choose between paying for food and paying their electric bills.” The burden of electricity rates falls hardest on those who can least afford to pay.
Minorities and low income consumers would be harshly impacted, said Bishop Phillip Porter, a local pastor. We should instead tell the PUC to retrofit the power plants at a fraction of the cost of switching to natural gas.
"We need to do everything we can to create more jobs, not take them away," added Veronica Wylie, a member of his congregation.
That’s a shame, and shame on those who would eliminate coal from the energy mix, said several of the speakers. State Senator Shawn Mitchell told the group that government should not be meddling in what has been traditional free market decisions about energy use. “It, government, should not be dictating fuel choices for electricity consumers.” Former Senator Jack Taylor predicted that the bill, which would end coal use at most of Xcel’s generating stations along the Front Range, would not only rob Colorado coal mines of more than 2.5 million tons annually; it would discourage future coal mine developments and expansions in the state and in his district, one of the state’s most prolific mining areas.
Stuart Sanderson, CMA president said this means that Colorado’s economy will decline. “Lost coal means a miner out of work, lost taxes for local governments and a public school system without taxes and royalties to support it.” That should not be allowed to happen, he added. Xcel’s plan will add only a handful of jobs, and it will eliminate thousands in the coal and related industries.