Thousands walked to Coors Field for the Rockies opener. Activists saw a good opportunity for a climate rally.

Miguel Otárola/CPR News
Protesters hoisted signs outside Xcel Energy’s offices in downtown Denver during a protest against the company’s use of fossil fuels on Friday, April 8, 2022.

With thousands en route to Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies season opener, environmental groups used the opportunity to stage a protest against fossil fuels in front of the state’s largest utility company.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the downtown Denver offices of Xcel Energy on Friday to demand the utility stop burning coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy. They focused much of the rally on the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, the largest coal-fired power plant in Colorado and one of its single largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

The utility has proposed closing the plant’s coal-fired generator by 2035. The Public Utilities Commission recently expressed interest in closing it earlier, citing potential benefits to customers and the environment. The regulators have also raised concerns about the plant’s newest coal-powered generator, which broke down in January after an electrical issue and is out of service for the foreseeable future.

“We don’t need that air pollution. Our community bears the burdens of environmental justice communities everywhere,” said Dr. Velma Campbell, a Pueblo resident, physician and member of the Colorado chapter of environmental nonprofit Mothers Out Front. “Shut it down. Don’t start it up again. Hold the shareholders responsible.”

David Alley, who lives in Denver, said he bought three shares of Xcel Energy stock when he moved to Colorado four years ago. He held a sign that read, “COAL IS OUR PAST, NOT OUR FUTURE” and joined other protesters wearing red shirts emblazoned with, “COAL FREE COLORADO.”

“It’s not working now — why spend money to fix a broken plant?” Alley said. “So if we could close it in 2025, that would be great. But for sure, there is absolutely no reason to go beyond 2030.”

As the first pitch of the Rockies game neared, the protesters marched on the sidewalk toward Coors Field, chanting, “Let’s go Xcel, shut down coal now.” They stopped across the street from the stadium to chat with baseball fans headed to the game.

Xcel and state government agencies – including the Colorado Energy Office, Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate and the staff of the Public Utilities Commission – agreed last year on a proposal to close the Comanche Generating Station by 2035. The three appointed members of the Public Utilities Commission are expected to issue a decision on when to close the plant later this year.