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RBC I The owners of the Craig Station power plant, including PacifiCorp, Platte River Power Authority, Salt River Project, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and Public Service Company of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, have reached an agreement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, WildEarth Guardians and the National Parks Conservation Association to revise the Colorado Visibility and Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (SIP).
Under the proposed revision to the SIP, the 427-megawatt Craig Station Unit 1, which is part of a three-unit generating facility in Craig, Colo., will be retired by Dec. 31, 2025. The unit will have more stringent limits on annual emissions beginning in 2020.
“A power plant may have multiple generation units that independently produce power. At Craig Station, there are three generating units. Each one operates independently and has its own boiler, turbine/generator and air quality control systems. Nucla Station has one generating unit. It will retire, closing the power plant. Craig Station has three generating units. Unit 1 will retire, and Unit 2 and Unit 3 will continue to operate at the power plant,” said Tri-State’s Lee Boughey, senior manager of corporate communications.
The SIP approved in 2014 required significant nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions reductions for Craig Station Unit 1 by August 2021. The owners reviewed several compliance options to meet the new standard, including installing additional emissions controls and switching fuels.
The owners ultimately decided to seek an extension to the compliance deadline and unit retirement, rather than installing emissions controls. The decision to propose revising the SIP is driven by the state and federal regulatory environment for coal-based generation, current and forecasted market conditions, the significant costs to install additional emissions controls and the best interests of electric consumers.
“Tri-State has worked tirelessly to preserve our ability to responsibly use coal to produce reliable and affordable power, which makes the decision to retire a coal-fired generating unit all the more difficult,” said Mike McInnes, CEO of Tri-State. “We are not immune to the challenges that face coal-based electricity across the country.”
The retirement of Unit 1 will mean the Craig station will require less coal.
“Craig Station currently purchases coal from Colowyo Mine and Trapper Mine. With the retirement of Unit 1, Craig Station will require less coal, as only two units will continue to operate. We will continue to pursue the development of the Collom are at Colowyo Mine, which is currently being permitted,” Boughey said.
As the operator of Craig Station, Tri-State will work with local officials and the State of Colorado to develop a transition team for those impacted by the retirement.
“We are grateful for the understanding and support Tri-State and our employees are receiving from the communities. The agreement we reached allows Craig Station Unit 1 to continue to operate through 2025, which provides Tri-State and community leaders time to plan,” Boughey said.
“We are part of this rural community and understand the retirement of Craig Station Unit 1 will affect our employees, their families, their communities and their very way of life,” said McInnes. “We feel a strong responsibility to provide ample time for our employees and the community to plan for the future, which this agreement allows.”
Under the federal regional haze regulations, the State of Colorado develops and implements a SIP to address visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. Colorado’s plan requires reductions of NOx emissions from generation sources.
Several procedural steps are required to implement the terms of the agreement, including approval by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission and the EPA.
The retirement will result in carbon dioxide emission reductions that the State of Colorado has set a goal to achieve and will help meet other proposed federal requirements. Tri-State has operated the unit in compliance with stringent environmental requirements and is proud of its environmental record.
Approximately 283 people work at the three-unit, 1,303-megawatt Craig Station. Craig Station Units 1 and 2 make up the Yampa Project, owned by PacifiCorp, Platte River Power Authority, Salt River Project, Tri-State and Public Service Company of Colorado. Tri-State is the sole owner of Unit 3. Construction of Craig Station’s Unit 1 was completed in 1980.