Bennet walks line with energy producers

Several western Colorado business people urged U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to prod along some energy-related projects as well as seek to give exporters a better chance to compete internationally.

Mines in western Colorado are having difficulty obtaining federal permits, Schauenberg Flexadux Corp. President John Kelleher said of several coal mines in the region. Without expansions and new mines, coal miners can expect to be laid off, Kelleher said.

Worse for air quality, when low-sulfur coal from Colorado can’t be mined, lesser-quality coal is burned instead, Kelleher said.

There are environmental issues related to western Colorado mines, Bennet replied at a small-business roundtable sponsored by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. Federal regulations, however, need constant review, Bennet said.

“We shouldn’t have red tape for red tape’s sake,” Bennet said later.

Oxbow Mining is seeking a federal permit to expand its Elk Creek Mine in Delta and Gunnison counties, then begin working a new mine once the Elk Creek Mine is played out. Another possible mine, Red Cliff, is awaiting a permit.

Manufacturing needs federal help to keep up with international competition, Bennet also was told.

International competition “seems to have the advantage over use because of high tariffs,” Peter de Grazia of Reynolds Polymer and International Concept Management said.

The Chinese are “coming in like gangbusters” to the wind-turbine market, Leitner-Poma of America President Rick Spear said.

Lessening health care costs would help American industry keep up with the international challenge, Spear said.

A solar business in Montrose suffers in another fashion from the federal government’s inability to keep up with change, said Doug Kiesewetter, founder and chief executive officer of brightLeaf Technologies.

Federal agencies are prohibited from contracting with him because his company is too young, Kiesewetter said.

BrightLeaf Technologies makes solar-energy systems that are more efficient than current approaches, but it has had difficulty getting a foothold, Kiesewetter said.

In addition to looking at his business, Bennet should look as well at the Piñon Ridge uranium mill that is being proposed near Naturita, Kiesewetter said. The mill promises increased energy security and much-needed employment, in addition to using his technology to save significantly on its own energy costs, Kiesewetter said.

Bennet, who took notes during the meeting, said later that Kiesewetter might have a point and said he would look into it.

The overarching economic issue, however, is the nation’s debt, he said.

Bennet reiterated his support for a plan proposed by the Debt and Deficit Commission to reduce the debt by $4 trillion, but he said any plan must “materially address the problem,” reflect that all Americans are in it together, be bipartisan and be acceptable to the capital markets that purchase debt.


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