The co-owners of the Craig Station coal-fired power plant in Moffat County on Wednesday announced a firm closing date for one of its three generating units, and the news could have been worse in terms of how soon jobs will be lost at the facility and a local mine that supplies it.
The five utilities that own Unit 2 at the plant said they have unanimously decided to retire the 410-megawatt generating unit on Sept. 20, 2028. It previously had been expected to close anywhere from 2026-2030. Its closure is expected to result in the closure of the nearby Trapper Mine, for which the plant is its sole customer.
Early this year, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Craig Station’s operator and co-owner, said it plans to close the plant altogether by 2030, along with the Colowyo Mine, another local coal mine that also supplies the plant.
The power plant ownership is complicated. Generating Units 1 and 2 are owned by PacifiCorp, Platte River Power Authority, the Salt River Project, Tri-State and Xcel Energy-Colorado. They previously announced the retirement of the 427-megawatt Unit 1 by the end of 2025 under an agreement with regulators to address regional haze problems.
The 448-megawatt Craig Station Unit 3, which is owned only by Tri-State, will be shut down by 2030. It is supplied by the Colowyo Mine, which also will close by then.
Trapper was opened to supply both units 1 and 2, and is co-owned by the utilities that own those units, except Xcel. Last year, PacifiCorp proposed shutting down Unit 2 by 2026. That left Trapper Mine braced for the possibility of shutting down that early if the unit’s co-owners went along with the proposal, or operating potentially as long as 2030 unless Tri-State shuts down the Craig Station altogether before then.
Trapper has 144 miners, and Colowyo has 183, according to data as of April from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. The plant currently employs 240 people. The loss of so many well-paying jobs will deliver a major hit to the economy of Moffat County and beyond, but utilities have been accelerating their shift to renewable sources of energy due to factors such as regulatory pressure, the falling cost of wind and solar energy, and demand from customers.
“Even though the Unit 2 retirement date is only one year earlier than the full retirement date for Craig Station, the decision weighed heavily on us,” Duane Highley, chief of executive officer of Tri-State, said in a joint news release from the utilities. “As we implement our Responsible Energy Plan, we remain focused on working with our partners in the plant, as well as local and state leaders, to support our employees and the community through this transition.”
Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy – Colorado, said in the release, “As a company with a vision to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity to our customers by 2050, Xcel Energy recognizes this is not an easy decision. We believe in providing as much advance notice as possible so we can work with our economic and community partners through this transition.”