By Gary Harmon
August 10, 2017 - Coal production is swinging back up in Colorado and 2017 could end up being a year with 1 million more tons produced in the state than in 2016, Colorado Mining Association President Stan Dempsey said Wednesday.
The improvement in the outlook for coal coincides with a change of administrations in Washington, D.C., Dempsey said, noting that while President Donald J. Trump has been criticized for legislative failures, he has taken strides to reduce regulatory burdens on coal and other industries.
Trump has “done a tremendous amount of work and Congress has done a tremendous amount of work to improve the prospects” of coal and other industries, Dempsey said during the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s energy briefing at the DoubleTree Hotel.
Reversal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was particularly helpful, Dempsey said.
“The Clean Power Plan was designed to put the coal industry out of business,” he said.
Dempsey declined to draw a direct connection between the change of administrations and increased Colorado coal production, but said, “The boot is off our throats from the Obama administration.”
Colorado produced more than 12.5 million tons of coal in 2016 and miners in Colorado had produced nearly 4.9 million tons of coal by the end of April so far this year, according to the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.
Efforts by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to establish Coal Community Zones in locales suffering from coal mine closures, such as Delta and Moffat counties, are appreciated, Dempsey said.
“Perhaps this could have been avoided,” though, he said, had the Obama administration not moved against the coal industry with the Clean Power Plan, a moratorium on coal leasing, requirements that projects account for a “social cost of carbon,” and other mineral-valuation and stream protection rules.
“We aren’t blowing the tops off any mountains in Colorado,” Dempsey said.