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November 20, 2020

Regional Haze Plan Calls for Earlier Retirement for Colorado Coal-Fired Power Plants

Victory: Proposal by Sierra Club and National Parks Conservation Association will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, improving public health and visibility at national parks

Contacts

Michael Hiatt, Earthjustice, (303) 519-9727

Matt Gerhart, Sierra Club, (510) 847-7721

Tracy Coppola, National Parks Conservation Association, (303) 947-8013 

Denver, CO

Coloradans will breathe cleaner air as a result of the Air Quality Control Commission’s (AQCC) approval today of the state’s regional haze plan, with modifications proposed by the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

By pushing up the retirement dates for some coal plants to the end of 2028, the AQCC will reduce pollution contributing to haze at Colorado’s national parks and other public lands. And there will also be other important benefits: helping the state achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions mandated by last year’s climate legislation, HB 19-1261; improving public health by cutting pollutants linked to a host of respiratory and other illnesses; and saving Colorado utility customers millions of dollars.

The Air Pollution Control Division originally proposed setting enforceable retirement deadlines for eleven coal-fired electric generating units, a gas unit, and a coal mine earlier than previously planned. While this was positive news, the Commission made the plan even better by accelerating the closure dates for some of the largest and most polluting coal plants in the State.

The Commission voted to accelerate the closure dates for the Craig 3, Rawhide, and Nixon coal-fired power plants to no later than December 31, 2028. The Commission deferred action on the Hayden coal plant, but signaled that it is interested in having the Hayden plant retire no later than the end of 2028. It is estimated that retiring all five of these units by December 31, 2028 would save Coloradans approximately $68 million, while reducing NOx by 10,000 tons, SO2 by 12,000 tons, and CO2 by more than 19.4 million tons more than the Division’s originally-proposed closure dates.

The Commission voted today to take preliminary final action, and will vote at its next meeting to finalize the action it took today.

“This is undoubtedly a win-win-win situation,” said Michael Hiatt, a staff attorney at Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain office. “Retiring these five coal units early will reduce air pollution at Colorado’s national parks, help Colorado achieve its climate goals and save Coloradans millions of dollars.”

“The Commission should be applauded for taking this critical step to improve air quality and reduce climate change,” said Matthew Gerhart, a staff attorney at Sierra Club. “The Commission’s decision today will speed up the transition away from highly polluting coal plants toward cleaner energy.”

“The pollution caused by these coal-fired power plants degrades the air quality within Colorado’s national parks and is one of the most dire threats facing these treasured landscapes,” said Tracy Coppola, Colorado Program Manager for the NPCA. “Bringing forward the retirement of these harmful facilities will stop this pollution at the source, move our state closer toward achieving its climate action plan goals, and will greatly improve Colorado’s national parks and public health.”

Amendments to the U.S. Clean Air Act passed in 1977 require states to create plans to protect visibility at national parks and other public lands and to revise them periodically to ensure that goals are being met. The AQCC was considering revisions for the regional haze program’s second implementation period, which ends on December 31, 2028.

Last year, the Colorado Legislature passed H.B. 1261, mandating steep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The AQCC’s decision will help the state meet the interim goal of cutting emissions by 50% of 2005 levels by 2030.

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