Wednesday, March 17, 2004
A grass-roots group has formed to oppose six methods Xcel Energy proposed to deliver coal to the Hayden Station power plant.
The Nature Conservancy, Yampa Valley Land Trust and property owners on the north side of U.S. Highway 40 across from Hayden Station have met several times at Carpenter Ranch to discuss the best ways to state their opposition and propose a solution less detrimental to their properties. Several of the ranches that could be impacted by Xcel's coal-delivery proposals are protected by conservation easements.
Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, who owns a ranch under a conservation easement across from the power plant, drafted a formal letter asking for the Hayden Town Board's support. He will present the letter to the Town Board at its meeting at 7:30 p.m. today.
"If this gets endorsed by the town of Hayden, we would have the support of an extra 1,700 people," Monger said. "This is a citizen and town of Hayden issue -- preserving the landscape of agricultural lands around the town. The town would want to get involved because it is part of three-mile master plan to preserve open spaces and long-range agriculture operations."
Last fall, Xcel, the operator of Hayden Station, proposed several alternatives to trucking of coal from the Seneca Coal Mines south of the plant. Their proposals include building conveyor belts or railroad spurs across private properties or preserved areas including The Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch or the Mongers' ranch.
"These proposals are unacceptable," said Betsy Blakeslee, outreach coordinator for The Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch. "We do see some promise in other alternatives Xcel may be able to use."
While Xcel has proposed several rail spurs across the two-mile stretch of U.S. 40 in front of Hayden Station, the group of property owners and environmentalists say that a rail spur on the far east side of Carpenter Ranch would be feasible for the power plant and the landowners. Xcel has not announced such an option, although representatives have said they are looking into options other than the six proposed.
If a more environmentally sensitive coal-delivery option was more costly for Xcel, the group believes the costs could be supported by the 400,000 customers of energy from Hayden Station, Monger said.
"We understand the need to secure a long-term supply of coal, and in most economic manner as possible," Monger said. "But we would rather them not save money than be the burden of adjacent landowners in that vicinity, especially if lands have already been preserved. Xcel needs to look at their bottom line to determine the alternative."
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