Letter: WREA on Colowyo closure

Dear Editor:

Last week Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association (Tri-State) made the difficult announcement that it will close the Colowyo Mine and the Craig Station Units by 2030. White River Electric Association (WREA) learned about these closures last Thursday morning and our thoughts immediately went to the employees and our communities. Colowyo Mine has been a valued member-consumer for decades and the Craig Units have provided our region with safe and reliable power since the 1970s.

White River Electric would prefer to see Colowyo produce coal for the Craig Units for generations to come but those decisions are not within our control. White River Electric was active in the campaign to educate the public on Colowyo’s environmentally sound operations which even featured local stories and member faces. White River Electric was also a vocal advocate for Colowyo during the Collom expansion permitting process. Unfortunately, these efforts were no match for the legislative and regulatory pressures that drove these closures. Tri-State serves 43 diverse members and many of these members have long pushed for an increase in renewable energy and a departure from coal generation. Tri-State member and regulatory pressures led Tri-State to develop a Responsible Energy Plan that increased the use of cost competitive renewables and addressed coal production and generation in Colorado and New Mexico. Tri-State considered a full array of options, including converting the coal plants to natural gas, selling them to other buyers, performing upgrades or other efficiency improvements, and whether technological improvements like carbon capture could postpone retirement, but these options were either not cost effective or not technologically viable or both.

Meeker stands together in challenging times and we are pleased to see that so many of our members have been vocal in their support for the affected employees, families and businesses. We are also pleased that local and statewide political leaders have recognized the impact these closures will have on our region. These decisions were not made lightly by Tri-State and the phased plan will allow Tri-State time to work with their employees and our communities to address the impacts of the closures. White River Electric looks forward to working with community and business leaders on economic development efforts over the next several years.

White River’s initial posting regarding these closures led with support for Tri-State as they move forward with their Responsible Energy Plan, and we regret that this has offended many of our members. While the entire posting shared genuine concern about the employees and our communities, it was quickly lost in the emotions surrounding our commitment to Tri-State and we sincerely apologize.

White River Electric is a member of Tri-State, but more importantly, we are a cooperative that is made up of our member-owners who are our friends and family. We appreciate your comments, your passion for our community and your patience as we work through the challenges that face our industry and the closures.

Sincerely,

White River Electric Association