Two mega-coal plants on tap

Local appliances and light switches could be darkening the skies over southeast Colorado and western Kansas. Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which serves La Plata County and most of rural Colorado, announced plans for two giant new coal-fired power plants last week.

One of the plants is slated for Kansas and the second is planned for southeast Colorado. A third plant had also been planned for Kansas but has been put on hold. Numerous conservation groups warned that the plants would represent a significant step backwards for the utility and would threaten efforts to address global warming.  

“Wall Street is beginning to respond to the overwhelming scientific evidence about global warming. Projects like Tri-State’s that make the problem worse just aren’t a good investment for the future,” said Matt Baker, executive director of Environment Colorado. Baker added that this sentiment was evident in the recent decision of TXU, a Texas-based energy provider, to abandon eight new coal plants.

On the plus side, Tri-State’s officials did have some good news during their April 4 annual meeting. They announced they would expand their energy conservation programs, add 300 megawatts of combined cycle natural gas power plants, and request 50 megawatts of renewable resources. However, in addition to their efficiency and renewable efforts, Tri-State also plans to go forward with at least two new coal plants.  

“Renewables and energy efficiency are certainly cleaner and cheaper than Tri-State’s proposed coal plants. Tri-State did take baby steps toward a ‘New Energy Future,’ but they’re still part of the problem of global warming, not the solution,” said Baker.

Baker then referenced a new United Nations report underwritten by more than 2,500 scientists that warns that the West will feel some of America’s worst global warming impacts. “Tri-State needs to take global warming seriously and create a plan that reduces, not increases, global warming pollution,” he said. Some rural electric cooperatives served by Tri-State have major concerns about the rate impacts of Tri-State’s proposed coal plants as well as the effects on global warming. San Miguel, Ouray and Gunnison counties as well as the towns of Telluride and Crested Butte have passed resolutions stating strong concern with Tri-State’s power plant plans.

Securing investment for these plants might also pose a problem for Tri-State. At least three of Tri-States 18 member-cooperatives in Colorado have not signed contract extensions, and investors could balk without this security. Baker concluded that just one of Tri-State’s new plants could wipe out all the carbon-pollution savings afforded by the recently passed House Bill 1281. The bill doubled Colorado’s renewable energy standard to 20 percent by 2020.

Co-op clinic ready to open doors

A cooperative effort between the City of Durango, La Plata County and Mercy Regional Medical Center is stepping in to fill a local health-care void. The team is ready to launch Health Services Cooperative (HSC), a medical clinic that will be operated by Mercy Regional Medical Center as a short-term, sto-gap solution to the primary care shortage in La Plata County. The shortage was created with the March 31 closure of Valley Wide Health Services, an event that left between 8,000 and 10,000 La Plata County residents without primary health care. Health Services Cooperative will be located at 1800 E. Third Ave., Suite 109, formerly the site of Valley Wide Health Services. The clinic is tentatively scheduled to open May 1, and tentative operating hours will be 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday with an hour closure for lunch.

Health Services Cooperative patients will be seen by appointment only, and clinic managers expect the clinic to take calls for patient appointments in the coming week, once a clerical staff is in place.

Health Services Cooperative will not be a full-service primary care clinic but will offer: medication management; acute medical care for minor illnesses; preventative care checkups; and medical monitoring of chronic medical conditions. A clinic hotline, (970) 764-1790, is now operational and information will be updated as new information about HSC becomes available.

Top program selects DAC director

Local arts could get a leg up this summer. Brian Wagner, executive director of the Durango Arts Center, has been selected from a nationwide pool of arts leaders to participate in a leadership advancement program. Fifty arts leaders will attend the “Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders – Arts” from June 24-July 6. The program was developed and presented by National Arts Strategies and the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Center for Social Innovation.

“We are thrilled that Brian Wagner was selected in this highly competitive process,” said Karen Thompson, DAC Board president. “We look forward to the new ideas and approaches he will develop through this experience and the possibilities for the DAC and our community.”

Each year, National Arts Strategies selects 50 outstanding arts and culture leaders to participate through a competitive process based on nominations from leading foundations, corporations and arts patrons. Participants will spend two weeks on the Stanford University campus learning new management approaches and sharing insights with their peers in all disciplines. They will acquire additional skills and knowledge that will increase their impact on their organizations, their communities and their disciplines. The curriculum integrates conceptual knowledge with the participants’ own experience to generate powerful and practical insights about leadership. The learning stems from a variety of activities including classes, small-group discussions and individual study.

National Arts Strategies created this program with in 2001 in response to the lack of investment in senior-level professional development designed specifically for arts leaders. Since then, more than 250 arts and culture leaders from the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Israel and Singapore have completed the program.

FLC signs climate commitment

Fort Lewis College made a firm commitment to the climate this week. On April 6, FLC President Brad Bartel signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. This document officially states Fort Lewis College’s commitment to a healthy environment and lays out an action plan.

“The commitment by the president shows that Fort Lewis College is taking leadership on addressing this incredibly important issue. President Bartel will now join 148 other college presidents who are committing to achieving climate neutrality. It also reinforces the commitments made late last year by the City of Durango and La Plata County to meet emission targets set by the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement,” says Fort Lewis College Environmental Center Coordinator Marcus Renner.

The signing took place immediately prior to the Fort Lewis College’s Earth Week’s Keynote Address from noted author David Orr.

– compiled by Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows