November 17, 2017 Read More →

Colorado City Contemplates Closing Coal-Fired Plant a Decade Ahead of Schedule

Denver Post:

One of the nation’s last coal-fired power plants in the middle of a city may shut down a decade sooner than planned as Colorado Springs leaders contemplate climate action and urban revitalization along a creek.

This is happening as residents of Colorado Springs (pop. 465,000) increasingly raise concerns about sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other pollution. On Thursday, residents pressed state health officials to reject a proposal to declare the 80-year-old Martin Drake Power Plant “in attainment” of federal air quality standards for SO2, a toxic gas that mixes with other pollutants and hangs over the city against mountains, with the potential to cause asthma, heart disease and other lung problems after even brief exposure. Colorado Springs Utilities plant operators this year deployed “scrubbers” to clean emissions, and federal Environmental Protection Agency overseers this week said average monthly SO2 emissions decreased to 31 tons a month, down from 330 tons a month in 2015.

But Colorado air quality control commissioners voted 8-1 against re-designating the 80-year-old Martin Drake Plant as a facility in compliance with federal air quality requirements, acknowledging public health concerns and calls for cleaner air.

The air concerns coincide with brainstorming by the Colorado Springs council members and developers about using the site of the Drake plant, downtown along Fountain Creek, for green space and a museum celebrating the Olympics. For years, Colorado Springs has served as the home of the U.S. Olympic Committee and a training center for athletes.

City council members have directed the municipal utility to analyze possibilities for ramping up the 2035 date for closing the plant to 2025, council president Richard Skorman told The Denver Post. And council members are mulling possibilities for shutting one of the two remaining generators in the plant sooner, by 2023, Skorman said.

“Some of us would like to move it just because it is a huge blight on the downtown environment,” he said. “We have the ability to create a great green-way connection down there. … If we could move it out of downtown, we could use that site for urban redevelopment.”

More: Colorado Springs still rolls coal in heart of city, but may shut Drake plant by 2025 as residents fume

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