OPINION: Coal-fired Plants Retired by Xcel Energy
Pam Kiely | 8/18/10
Xcel Energy today hit a critical deadline under Colorado's landmark new clean air law, filing a plan with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) proposing the retirement of five Denver-metro area coal-fired power units. Xcel's filing is an important step in complying with HB10-1365, the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act that passed the Colorado General Assembly in early April with bipartisan support.

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

“With Xcel's filing today, Colorado has moved one step closer towards cleaner air and improved public health,” said John Nielsen, energy program director with Western Resource Advocates. “While we need to look closely at the details of the plan, it is clear that Xcel is taking seriously the need to replace Colorado's aging coal-burning power plants with solutions that reduce pollution and strengthen our economy.”

“Xcel’s clean air blueprint would help millions of Coloradans hard it by air pollution and the sooner it is implemented the sooner Colorado’s children and families will breathe easier,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel with Environmental Defense Fund. “Replacing the aging, high emitting coal plants in the metro area with cleaner power is the single most cost-effective solution to cut air pollution and prevent disease, save lives, reduce hospitalizations and improve human health.”

Reducing air pollution from the facilities Xcel has identified in a unified, comprehensive, and timely plan is one of the most cost-effective and important steps that can be taken to protect human health and the environment, cut global warming pollution, and come into compliance with the federal air quality standards. As part of an overarching effort that includes ensuring that Colorado is making bold new commitments on renewable energy and that traditional resource development is done right, this puts Colorado at the forefront of solving our energy challenges.

“Fully implementing the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act will move Colorado towards a cleaner, more prosperous energy future,” notes Elise Jones, executive director of Colorado Environmental Coalition. “And that not only means pushing Xcel to ensure that we move as quickly as possible, but also that we take full advantage of the role that energy efficiency can play in providing cleaner, cheaper energy in Colorado.”

The Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act will fundamentally transform Colorado's electricity sector.  Today we sit at a real crossroads.  But instead of continuing to try to make 19th century solutions work to meet 21st century energy challenges, we are taking bold steps to make a fundamental shift in how we power our future.

Colorado has attracted national attention with this groundbreaking effort, and Xcel's submission today is a good indication that significant progress can be made.

"A plan to responsibly implement the Clean Air, Clean Jobs bill will make Colorado a national leader in providing a model for addressing the serious public health, haze and climate impacts of dirty coal-fired power plants," said Roger Singer, regional representative for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "Xcel Energy is certainly on the right track with today's filing, though retiring some of these aging coal plants faster than proposed will help clean up Colorado's air sooner rather than later, and more quickly add jobs from a clean energy economy."

Part of what makes the Colorado effort such a compelling model is that leaders across the political spectrum coalesced around this innovative solution for clean air.

"Clean air is not a partisan political issue and this effort is the proof-in-the-pudding,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Colorado Conservation Voters. “Diverse stakeholders, from industry to conservation groups, from Republicans to Democrats, all came together to create this framework for change-- and it's time for Washington to take notice.”

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

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