Bill to keep Cameo plant in operation dies Tuesday

DENVER — A bill designed to extend the life of the Cameo power plant and the jobs that go along with them died Tuesday in the Colorado Legislature.

The Xcel-owned plant east of Grand Junction is slated to close at the end of the year.

That means about 100 mine, trucking and power-plant jobs associated with the operation of the aging station will go away by next January, said Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, who introduced the bill with Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, and Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction.

“It had become very apparent the bill wasn’t going anywhere mainly because of the fiscal impact (to Xcel),” King said moments after the bill was killed. “If we had looked at this two years ago and said we need an additional six months or eight months, it would have been possible to do it. What happened was, Xcel got to the point of no return.”

The electric utility has been in the process of shutting down the 53-year-old plant for the past several months. Keeping it open until August 2011, which is what House Bill 1282 was designed to do, would have cost money that would have been borne by ratepayers.

King, Bradford and Penry hoped to keep Cameo open longer to give McClane Canyon Mine, which exclusively serves the plant, more time to complete a planned expansion to offer its coal to out-of-state customers.

King said Xcel, Gov. Bill Ritter, the Public Utilities Commission and others searched for ways to keep the power plant open, but couldn’t make it work. He said while that’s no longer an option, he and state officials continue to look for ways to help McClane speed up its expansion, but he isn’t optimistic.

“There’s nobody that’s said, ‘No, we don’t want to help. No, we don’t want to save these jobs,’ ” King said. “Whether it’s the governor’s office or Xcel or the mine company or the trucking company, everybody wants to find a solution. Legislation just isn’t it.”


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