Pueblo Faith Leaders Co-Host Town Hall with Local Nonprofits for Sustainable Energy Future – Rev. Kevin Olsen

Pueblo’s Energy Future, Beyond Coal Campaign, Pueblo League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club hosted a Town Hall forum to discuss Xcel Energy’s plans to retire two coal fired power plants near Pueblo and replace the generation with wind and solar.

In an effort to inform the community, Pueblo’s Energy Future co-hosted a Clean Energy & Economic Growth Forum on Tuesday, August 7, 2018. Well over one hundred people attended the forum. A brief explanation of the Colorado Energy Plan (That’s what Xcel Energy calls it’s plan) was presented by David Cockrell a member of Pueblo’s Energy Future. David’s presentation was followed by comments from the following stakeholders: Abbey C. Pizel, Natural Resource Policy Analyst from the Colorado Fiscal Institute; Terry Hart, Pueblo County Commissioner; Hilary Glasgow, President of the Southern Colorado Labor Council; Ashley R. Valdez, Area Manager, Community and Local Gov’t. Affairs for Xcel Energy; Tim Sheesley, Chief Economist for Xcel Energy.

Cleaner-air for Pueblo means a healthier Pueblo, 21.9 million in new property tax revenue will help our governmental agencies immensely, 500 new construction jobs for Pueblo and the vicinity will stimulate our local economy and a new image of Pueblo will begin to emerge.

Our faith requires that we care for the earth humbly and respectfully. We must ensure that we live in balance with creation. Clean air means a healthier Pueblo and a healthier Colorado. Therefore, switching to a sustainable energy future serves the needs and rights of the people and the land of Colorado.

When Xcel Energy announced plans to partially close two of its three coal-fired plants in Pueblo and increase its use of renewable energy, there were concerns about the economic impact the job losses here would have on the community. It turns out the overall economic impact will be quite positive.

Xcel plans to scale back operations at the Comanche power plant, which will result in the loss of about 80 jobs. Representatives from the utility company have said they expect those job losses to be absorbed mostly through retirements and other attrition over the next several years.

Meanwhile, the company plans to build and operate new wind and solar farms around the state, including several solar farms in Pueblo and Pueblo County. According to a study by the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, that work will create approximately five-hundred construction jobs within our community over the next five years.

Specifically, Xcel wants to contract with private developers to build three solar farms and two power storage/battery units near the Comanche plant, as well as a power transfer station and other improvements.

When the construction work is complete, the number of jobs associated with Xcel’s increased emphasis on renewable energy will drop. There will be some full-time jobs maintaining the new energy facilities, but not as many as the coal-fired plant required.

Still, the university’s study said the switchover will benefit Pueblo in other ways, including an estimated $21.9 million in taxes paid to local governments over the next 23 years.

The study projects other parts of the state also will benefit from Xcel’s renewable energy projects, with an estimated 416 jobs a year if averaged out through 2040.

All of that is dependent on approval by the Public Utilities Commission, which could make a decision as early as September, following public hearings and regulatory review.

Members of the community voiced concern with the loss of the eighty Union scale jobs at the two existing coal plants. Excel’s response was to say they will be working with those affected in multiple ways to insure a smooth transition and to minimize employee job losses as much as possible over the next four to five years.

Pueblo’s Energy Future highly encouraged Xcel to work with the Labor Union to iron out their concerns before the PUC makes its final decision in September.

In summary, Pueblo’s Energy Future (PEF) supports Xcel’s Colorado Energy plan. PEF believes the benefits far outweigh the few concerns.

If you would like to follow the progress and the work Pueblo’s Energy Future is doing to secure a clean, affordable, sustainable and just energy future for Pueblo please visit our website and sign-up to receive our newsletter. You can also follow and like us on Facebook.

Rev. Kevin Olsen
Together Colorado Faith Leaders in Action & Pueblo’s Energy Future
Pueblo, Colorado

Parts of this article was taken and revised from an article published in the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper.

Pueblo’s Energy Future was recently featured in Time and Colorado Public Radio.

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