Club 20: Coal mining vital to state economy

Coal and natural gas both should be part of Colorado’s energy economy, Club 20 said Friday.

The Western Slope lobbying and promotional organization representing 22 counties is conducting its fall meeting, including several debates today at Two Rivers Convention Center.

The Club 20 board of directors unanimously called for the state to acknowledge the value of coal to the state’s economy from the mines on the Western Slope to the coal-burning electrical utilities on the Front Range.

The resolution is in direct response to HB 1365, approved by the Colorado Legislature this year, which was aimed at encouraging greater use of natural gas by Colorado utilities to improve air quality and avoid federal sanctions.

The message was aimed at lawmakers in Denver and Washington, D.C., Club 20 Chairman Jeff Comstock said.

“Please talk to the people who live here, work and play here before you make a policy against us,” Comstock said.

Coal-fired plants in Moffat and Routt counties have been retrofitted to burn coal more cleanly, the organization noted.

The Twentymile Mine “has been an excellent partner with the people of Routt County” and supplies coal containing low amounts of the contaminants sulfur and mercury and a high heat content, Diane Mitsh-Bush of Routt County told the board.

The board didn’t stop at boosting Western coal. It also urged more use of compressed and liquefied natural gas as a transportation fuel and called for additional development of alternative energy resources, such as solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric power in western Colorado.

Club 20’s fall meeting begins today at 8 a.m. with a speech from Gov. Bill Ritter, to be followed by a day of debates for Western Slope legislative districts and one on tax-cutting ballot measures.

Candidates for the 3rd Congressional District, governor and the U.S. Senate will debate at 6, 7 and 8 p.m., respectively.

Admission fees will be charged for debates. Admission to the morning and afternoon debates is $35 per session or $10 per debate. Admission to all three evening debates, which begin at 6 p.m., is $10 for all.

Talk of allowing Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman who joined the American Constitution Party to run for governor, to participate in the gubernatorial debate did not materialize during Club 20’s Friday meeting.

As a result, Tancredo will remain a spectator while Republican Dan Maes and Democrat John Hickenlooper debate at 7 p.m.

Tancredo and supporters will be outside the debate at Two Rivers Convention Center, beginning at 6:45 p.m. today, according to a news release from his campaign Friday.


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