About 300 people turned out Monday night for a hearing in Grand Junction on a new state law aimed at using natural gas to fuel power plants in efforts to cut power plant emissions. Xcel Energy, the state's largest producer of electricity, has announced a $1.3 billion plan to convert coal-fired power plants to natural gas in Denver and close a coal plant in Boulder.
The utility also plans to update air-pollution control equipment on coal-fired plants, including ones in western Colorado.
Speakers at the hearing by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission voiced concern about the effects on the state's coal industry and western Colorado communities where the industry provides tax revenue and jobs.
Routt County would see 16.4 percent of its tax base imperiled, former state Sen. Jack Taylor of Steamboat Springs said. Other counties could suffer similar losses and rate payers could see higher bills, he said.
Western Colorado is also home to some of the state's most active natural gas fields.
Critics of the law aimed at using more natural gas have questioned the effect on rates because of the volatility of gas prices compared to coal prices. The law requires Xcel Energy to reduce emissions from its power plants. The utilities commission will have final say on how the law is carried out.
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