Trump’s New Coal Air Pollution Rules May Not Affect Colorado Much

August 21, 2018
Photo: Hayden Generating Station Excel Energy
The Hayden coal-fired power station between Craig and Steamboat Springs in northwest Colorado is currently operated by Xcel Energy. It originally went into service in 1965.

Published 10:30 a.m. 08.21.2018 | Updated 6:48 a.m. 08.22.2018

The Trump Administration's move Tuesday to give states more authority to roll back federal regulations on air pollution from coal-fired power plants may not have much effect on Colorado.

That's because the Centennial State began its shift away from coal nearly a decade ago, with a state law called the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act. The law set in motion a move toward more use of renewable energy and natural gas, and away from coal-fired power plants.

"Wildfires burning all over the world - smoke everywhere - and President Trump wants to burn more coal with fewer clean air protections by dropping the Clean Power Plan," Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, tweeted Tuesday. "Colorado is staying the course, improving air quality and safeguarding our health."

Rep. Jared Polis, the Democratic nominee for governor, also criticized the president. 

"President Trump's decision is the wrong one for our economy, our planet, public health, and our children's future," Polis said in a statement. "With Washington moving in the wrong direction, we need leaders at the state level who will grow our economy while protecting our air and water. As governor, I will preserve our existing standards. And I'll work to protect our communities from harmful pollution while creating good-paying jobs that can't be outsourced by promoting clean-energy innovation."

Through a spokesman, Polis' opponent, Republican Walker Stapleton, said that "Polis wants to impose a radical energy plan on Colorado that will cost the average family of four $32,000 and is even more extreme than the Clean Power Plan."

"Walker believes we can grow our economy and protect our environment at the same time," said campaign spokesman Jerrod Dobkin. "Walker will support policies at the state level that respects our economy and environment, instead of implementing government mandates that will cost Colorado billions."

In his statement, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet echoed Polis and Gov. Hickenlooper.

“In the absence of leadership from Washington, Colorado will continue to reduce our emissions, grow our clean energy economy, and fulfill our obligation to safeguard the environment for the next generation,” Bennet said. 

Other prominent Colorado Democrats also criticized the Trump administration's new rules. "Simply unconscionable," Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, tweeted. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada, tweeted that the rules would "take us backward." 

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Coal still generates a plurality of the state's electricity, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, but natural gas is close behind.

Trump's Affordable Clean Energy Rule replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have cut carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by about a third by 2030. In addition to the Clean Air, Clean Jobs act, Colorado is operating under a 2017 executive order from Gov. John Hickenlooper that pledges to reduce emissions.

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