Coal in Colorado

Coal has been central to Colorado’s growth and economy since before statehood.

It has heated our homes, powered our railways, fueled our industries and, ultimately, generated most of our electricity. Along the way it built fortunes, defined communities, and even galvanized the labor movement in Colorado and around the country. More than 1,700 coal mines have operated in Colorado at one time or another over the last 160 years, from Larimer and Las Animas counties in the east to Moffat and Montezuma counties in the west. And generations of Colorado workers and their families have been proud to make their livings powering our prosperity by mining, transporting, and burning coal.

Today, coal is mostly used to generate electricity. And for a variety of reasons, the use of coal has been declining for more than a decade. That trend is likely to accelerate.

Eight coal-fired electrical power generating plants remained in Colorado in 2019. One (in Nucla) closed in September of that year. Four more (in Moffat, El Paso and Larimer counties) are officially scheduled to close between 2023 and 2030. Two of the three generating units of the plant in Pueblo are also scheduled to shut by 2025, and experts expect most of the remaining facilities to announce closures along similar timeframes.

The plans for Colorado's six remaining coal mines are less clear.

But markets are disappearing and they all face uncertain futures. Some may close when the nearby power plants they supply close. The era of coal in Colorado appears to be ending, and that poses serious challenges to the workers and communities that rely on it.

In 2019, the Colorado General Assembly passed and Governor Jared Polis signed legislation (House Bill 19-1314) creating the Office of Just Transition and the Just Transition Advisory Committee for these workers and communities a state priority. 

Boom and bust cycles have always been a part of Colorado’s energy economy. But for the first time, the state committed to not walk away from the workers and communities that stand to lose the most.

Operating Coal Mines

Name Location Employees (current) Production 2019
Foidel Creek Mine
Twentymile Coal Co.
Routt County 172

2.54 million tons

Trapper Mine
Trapper Mining Inc.

Moffat County 148 1.95 million tons
Colowyo Coal Mine
Tri-State Generation and Transmission
Moffat County 186

1.6 million tons

Deserado Mine
Blue Mountain Energy

Rio Blanco County 157

2.72 million tons

West Elk Mine
Mountain Coal Co.
Gunnison County 336 4.16 million tons
King II Mine
GCC Energy

La Plata County

93

0.66 million tons


 

    Operating Coal-Fueled Electrical Power Plants

    Name Location Closure Employees (current) Property Taxes as Percentage of County Total
    Hayden Station
    Xcel Energy
    Routt County Unit 1: by 2031 (projected)
    Unit 2: by 2037 (projected)
    74

     6.89%

    Craig Station
    Tri-State Generation and Transmission

    Moffat County Unit 1: December 2025 (announced)
    Unit 2: September 2028 (announced)
    Unit 3: December 2029 (announced)
    253 36.92%
    Comanche Station
    Xcel Energy
    Pueblo County Unit 1: by 2023 (approved)
    Unit 2: by 2026 (approved)
    Unit 3: by 2070 (projected)
    150

    16.1%

    Ray Nixon Power Plant
    Colorado Springs Utilities

    El Paso County by 2030 (announced) 166 (combined number with Martin Drake Plant)

    0%

    Martin Drake Power Plant
    Colorado Springs Utilities
    El Paso County by 2023 (announced) 166 (combined number with Ray Nixon Plant) 0%
    Pawnee Station
    Xcel Energy

    Morgan County

    2042 (projected) 79

    24.6%

    Rawhide Energy Station (Unit 1)
    Platte River Power Authority
    Larimer County by 2030 (announced) 100  

      Closed Coal-Fueled Electrical Power Plants

      Name Location Closure Employees (current)
      Nucla Station
      Tri-State Generation and Transmission
      Montrose County September 19, 2019 58

         

         

         

        Note on Closure dates: 

        • approved means approved by the Public Utilities Commission
        • announced means announced by the utility
        • projected means projected in the  Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) 2026 Common Case Report

        Sources:

        • Mine employment and production numbers from regular mining companies’ reports to the Div. of Reclamation, Mining and Safety at the CO Dept. of Natural Resources.
        • Power plant closure dates from utility resource plans approved by the CO Public Utilities Commission, public announcements from utilities, or the Western Electricity Coordinating Council 2026 Common Case Report.
        • Employee numbers from utility documents, including workforce transition plans submitted to the OJT, press releases and web sites.
        • Property tax percentages from the CO Dept of Local Affairs, Division of Property Taxation 2019 Forty-Ninth Annual Report to the Governor and General Assembly.