Coal-plant conversion bill on governor’s desk

A measure to convert coal-fired power plants in the Denver area to natural gas was sent to Gov. Bill Ritter’s desk Wednesday.

House Bill 1365, introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that included three from the Western Slope, is designed to help clear air pollution on the Front Range while boosting gas drilling on the Western Slope.

The Colorado Senate gave its final nod to the bill 20-13 Wednesday morning. By the end of the day, the House, too, approved it on a 52-12 vote.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said the measure would boost natural gas production in the state by about 15 percent.

Opponents, however, said it will do so at the expense of coal mining jobs.

Though the brainchild of Ritter, Penry sponsored the measure along with Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, and Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association immediately praised lawmakers for passing the bill, but the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy condemned it.

“Replacing coal with natural gas will not accomplish Colorado’s economic or environmental goals,” said Steve Miller, the coalition’s president and chief executive officer. “Not only is natural gas three times more expensive than coal nationally, but readily available, advanced, clean coal technologies represent a lower-cost alternative to meeting environmental regulations that were the impetus for the bill’s consideration.”


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