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Editorial: Colowyo’s Collom Expansion an Economic Asset for Colorado Counties



October 4, 2019 - In a national news cycle filled with bad news about coal, it’s good to see a bit of good news here locally when it comes to the industry that helped make Moffat and Craig Counties in Wyoming.

Colowyo is growing its surface mine operation as part of its Collom expansion — an important move for the stability of coal production and coal-fired power generation in Northwest Colorado. Colowyo said the expansion will add between two and three decades to the life of the mine, which helps keep Craig and Hayden Stations churning and burning, and our homes bright with light.

What’s more, the company says recent changes in the way it blasts and collects coal will reduce the amount of pollution produced by the mine, so they’ve updated their permit with Colorado’s health department to reflect their progress.

Colowyo is making a bold move here because the long-term market prospects for coal aren’t good. The price of coal is trending downward as renewable energy begins to overtake coal as a less expensive, abundant fuel. PacifiCorp and Tri-State are signaling a move toward a more renewable energy portfolio, so those communities that can’t easily transport their low-sulfur coal — like Craig’s — to energy-hungry developing markets overseas, will struggle in coming years to find a market here in the United States. The chorus of local governments, power cooperatives, and consumer dollars are ever-growing for a transition away from one of Moffat County’s most important taxpayers — coal.

Those miners and their consumer dollars represent a major source of stability for Moffat County and Craig. Those miners buy groceries and gas. They spend their money in our restaurants and bars. They buy pickup trucks and all-terrain vehicles at our dealerships. They buy homes and businesses. Are we too late to stop the socio-economic catastrophe that would occur if our high paying coal miners pick up town and go where they’re needed? How many and what kind of industries will it take to replace those high-paying coal jobs?

Colowyo’s Collom expansion at least buys our community some more time to answer these questions.

But losing coal miners and their families is about more than just dollars. Their work ethic and values have shaped the culture of Moffat County. They volunteer their time and charitably donate to our non-profit organizations, government infrastructure projects, and more.

That’s why we’re glad Colowyo is polluting less and producing more at their surface coal mine. Hopefully they’ll continue play a major role in keeping Moffat County viable in an uncertain coal future.