Colo. regulators deciding on Xcel coal-to-gas plan

DENVER — Colorado regulators are split on Xcel Energy’s plan for cutting air pollution from coal-fired power plants by 2018.

At issue is what to do with Xcel’s coal-fired Cherokee 4 unit in Denver. The Public Utilities Commission’s three members agreed today to resume discussions Thursday.

A state law aimed at helping Colorado comply with federal clean-air standards directed Xcel to cut emissions of nitrogen oxide at least 70 percent from 2008 levels.

The commission supports Xcel’s proposals to close five other coal-fired units in Denver and Boulder, switch one Denver unit to run on natural gas, and add emissions controls on two others.

Commissioner James Tarpey said today he supports Xcel’s suggestion to add new emissions controls at Cherokee 4, but PUC Chairman Ron Binz supports switching it to run on natural gas.

Commissioner Matt Baker wants to retire the plant and replace it with a natural-gas fired plant but said today he could reluctantly agree with Binz.

Tarpey said he was concerned about committing to natural gas and then learning later that the supply isn’t what commissioners expected.

The state health department, Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration, some environmental groups, the city of Boulder and Denver Public Schools have said shutting down Cherokee 4 in 2017 will do more to improve air quality.

Some doctors have told the PUC that retiring coal-fired power plants would mean healthier air. But northwest Colorado residents have said they fear their economies will suffer if coal miners lose jobs and their communities lose tax revenue from the mining industry. Cherokee 4 uses Colorado coal.


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