Doctors, miners weigh in on Xcel natural gas plan

DENVER — Doctors told state regulators Thursday that Xcel Energy’s plan to switch some of its coal-fired power plants to run on natural gas would mean cleaner air to breathe, but those with ties to the coal industry said it would cost jobs.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission held a public comment hearing on Xcel’s plan to comply with a new state law aimed at reducing nitrogen oxide emissions. The commission has until Dec. 15 to approve, deny or modify the plan.

Hotel owner Kerry Moe and others from Craig said moving away from coal would ruin the foundation of their economy, which relies on the coal industry for tax revenue and jobs.

“It will leave us on sand,” she said.

Representatives of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. and Union Pacific, whose trains ship coal to power plants, said railroad jobs could be lost, too.

Others worried that consumers would be hurt by volatile natural gas prices. Coal miner Rick Barnes recommended increasing emission controls on existing coal plants instead.

However, doctors and leaders working to keep the Front Range within federal ozone standards said the plan would go a long way toward improving air quality.

Xcel has estimated implementing its plan would cost $1.3 billion over 12 years. It hopes to start recovering costs from consumers starting Jan. 1.


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