GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — Across the United States, small towns face uncertain future’s as new state and national legislation forces the retirement of coal and fossil fuels.
Close to home this is the scenario playing out in the North-Western Colorado town of Craig.
The coal plant in Craig is closing along with the mine that feeds it. Economic concerns are front and center for many when asked to think about what a transition away from fossil fuels could mean for their futures.
It’s what some have called the great transition. The International Renewable Energy Agency prepared a global roadmap, to assess how countries can work together and become carbon neutral by 2050, and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet is wasting no time supporting the National Energy community Transition Act, “Well we have to get it passed first of all,” Senator Bennet says, ” I think the important thing is we need to be planning for these transitions.”
Senator Bennet is introducing the act to support economic development and diversification in communities across Colorado that historically relied on fossil fuel generation and production. Like the town of Craig, but news of the transition didn’t come lightly, “Just on the face value of the news it looks really bad,” Ryan Hess Craig Mayor says, “That being said legislation as Senator Bennet proposed, there is a lot of good things out there.”
The owners of Craig Station will close the more than 1200-megawatt, three-unit plant in three stages by 2030, “Right now our community is going through those stages of grief,” Hess says.
After decades of relying on coal for their workforce, tax base, and way of life, the town faces an uncertain future, “I think we’re still in that despair where people kind of have that hopeless feeling, and it’s hard to get past that,” Hess says.
Roughly 50% of Moffatt County and the school district’s budget come from funding related to the production of energy or coal, “The city of Craig which I represent, we’re funded more from taxpayers and transitional sales tax,” Hess says, “Our outlook is a little bit better because we capture people that pass through here.”
The transition act would establish a federally charted, nonprofit corporation that would manage a new endowment for disbursing funds to transitioning communities like Craig, that need support, “We called for an endowment because every year we have a fight for the rural school’s money and the payment instead of taxes money which are both federal funding that’s meant to make up for the fact that there are communities in this country that have a lot of public lands, look the Western Slope of Colorado is a perfect example in where they don’t get tax revenue, you know we shouldn’t have to fight every year to get that money yet we do have to fight,” Senator Bennet says.
Mayor Hess says Craig has reinvented itself before, it’s just change that’s hard to swallow.