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June 6 2016

More Coal Layoffs In Colorado

Jillian Kay Melchior

Colorado’s last fully operational mine announced 80 layoffs last week, the latest in a series of tough measures as Arch Coal struggles through bankruptcy reorganization.

 Such job loss is no stranger to Colorado’s Delta County, which has seen more than a thousand mining jobs cut in the past three years.

The Denver Post reports on how misguided regulation, in addition to competition from cheap natural gas, has put the coal sector in a tough position:

A national Clean Power Plan is designed to cut carbon emissions from coal-burning that scientists blame for global warming. Colorado lawmakers also have pushed for conversion of coal-fired power plants. And the U.S. Forest Service and courts have blocked coal mine expansion that requires drilling new vents so that miners can work safely under roadless Colorado forests.

Colorado Mining Association president Stuart Sanderson on Thursday blamed government rules “designed to drive coal out of the energy mix,” arguing that shifting from coal to renewable sources won’t improve global temperatures.

“Colorado Coal miners earn average wages and benefits approaching $135,000 annually and Colorado coal is a high-quality, clean resource that should remain a part of the energy mix,” Sanderson said. “Rural Colorado needs those jobs.”

Meanwhile, Grand Junction’s Daily Sentinel reports on some of the regional impact:

 Paonia town administrator Jane Berry said everyone was talking about the new layoffs Thursday because the West Elk is the “last big holdout” in the valley, the last mine to have avoided ceasing operating.

“The community feels the impact of all layoffs of each of the mines in a dramatic fashion because of how it affects our families and our communities and our schools,” she said.

… The West Elk Mine sits in Gunnison County, where the tax-revenue impacts of falling production primarily will be felt.

However, “The majority of the (workers’) families live in Delta County,” LeValley said. “They send their kids to school in Delta County so the primary impact for Delta County is in the (affected) families.”

Berry said that Paonia used to get up to about $125,000 a year from severance tax and mineral leasing revenues, and the latest projection is that it will be lucky to get about $40,000. The difference could pay for two full-time police officers, she said.

That fresh wound may well work to the detriment of Hillary Clinton, who is already facing a competitive race in the swing state of Colorado. Her controversial comments about putting coal mines and coal workers out of work rankled voters in other coal-dominated regions.  

 



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