Coal in Colorado

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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 in Colorado. 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, and another (in Colorado Springs) converted to natural gas in 2021 before closing completely in 2022. The remaining six plants are officially scheduled to close or convert between 2023 and 2031.

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The plans for Colorado's seven 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.

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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 and making a “just transition” for these workers and communities a state priority. The General Assembly has passed several additional bills since then, and the current statute governing OJT can be found at C.R.S. § 8-83-501 through 506.

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

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Operating Coal Mines

Name Location Employees 
(as of October 2022)
Production (2021)
Foidel Creek Mine
Twentymile Coal Co.
Routt County 168

1.74 million tons

Trapper Mine
Trapper Mining Inc.

Moffat County 105 1.57 million tons
Colowyo Coal Mine
Tri-State Generation and Transmission
Moffat County 173

2.2 million tons

Deserado Mine
Blue Mountain Energy

Rio Blanco County 153

2.71 million tons

West Elk Mine
Mountain Coal Co.
Gunnison County 284 3.28 million tons
King II Mine
GCC Energy

La Plata County

92

0.47 million tons

New Elk Mine
Basin Resources

Las Animas County

80 0.17 million tons


 

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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: 2028 (approved)
Unit 2: 2037 (approved)
74

 6.89%

Craig Station
Tri-State Generation and Transmission

Moffat County Unit 1: December 2025 (approved)
Unit 2: September 2028 (approved)
Unit 3: December 2029 (approved)
253 36.92%
Comanche Station
Xcel Energy
Pueblo County Unit 1: 2023 (approved)
Unit 2: 2026 (approved)
Unit 3: 2031 (approved)
150

16.1%

Ray Nixon Power Plant
Colorado Springs Utilities

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

0%

Pawnee Station
Xcel Energy

Morgan County

2026 (converting to natural gas)(approved) 79

24.6%

Rawhide Energy Station (Unit 1)
Platte River Power Authority
Larimer County by 2030 (announced) 100  
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Closed Coal-Fueled Electrical Power Plants (since 2019)

Name Location Closure Employees (current)
Nucla Station
Tri-State Generation and Transmission
Montrose County September 19, 2019 58
Martin Drake Powerplant Colorado Springs Utilities El Paso County

Converted to Natural Gas August, 2021; Closed September, 2022

166 (combined number with Ray Nixon Plant)

 

 

 

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Note on Closure dates: 

  • approved means approved by the Public Utilities Commission
  • announced means announced by the operating utility

Sources:

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