Get Big Pivots

What they’ve been saying from New Mexico to Wyoming


“It presents the best pathway forward for us.”

– Pueblo (Colo.) Mayor Nick Gradisar on why his city supported a settlement agreement with Xcel Energy that was approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in August (with a final decision on Sept. 20).

Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar

Nick Gradisar

The decision stipulates that Xcel will cease operations of Comanche 3 before 2031 but financially obligates Xcel to pay approximately 10 years of lost property taxes beyond the closing.

“This is a huge victory for Pueblo, and it gives us a strong chance of achieving a smooth and successful transition,” he wrote in an op/ed published in The Pueblo Chieftain.

He also noted that in 2021 he convened city and county leaders along with others – the local colleges, the electrical workers’ union and the Pueblo Economic Development Corp. — to begin planning “how we are going to make sure we come out of this transition stronger and more economically diverse.”

The PUC decision also requires Xcel to pay local taxing districts the equivalent of six years of lost revenues as Xcel retires coal plants at Hayden and Brush. The Brush plant will be repurposed to burn natural gas. Xcel has not decided what it will do at the Hayden site.


“Coal’s days in Colorado are now unequivocally numbered.”

– Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt, reflecting on the same PUC decision.

Hiatt went on to identify “two overarching issues that will likely drive the next decade’s headline and work.” Colorado needs to accelerate electrification of transportation, he wrote in an op/ed published in the Grand Junction Sentinel, and Colorado remains in the “early stages of decarbonizing the buildings sector.”

An important test case now before the PUC, he noted, is whether Xcel will be permitted to recoup costs of expanding its gas system from the Sloan’s Lake area in Denver and Edgewater westward into Lakewood.

Second, Colorado must ensure that the next phase of the clean energy transition is more equitable than in the past,” he wrote. “Colorado must develop robust and well-designed clean energy programs for low-income customers that reflect the needs and desires of these customers and disproportionately impacted communities.”


“For a region already facing economic challenges, doing everything in our power to keep the San Juan Generating Station open with carbon capture is a no-brainer.”

– Farmington (N.M.) Mayor Nate Duckett on why his city of 47,000 is trying to force Public Service Co. of New Mexico, the owner and operator of the coal plant, to abandon plans to close the coal plant before the end of September. The city has filed a lawsuit to halt the closure.

The utility had agreed to transfer ownership of the coal plant to Farmington and a company called Enchant. They proposed to adapt the plant to do carbon capture. The Farmington Times reports that the utility issued a statement that said the city and company had “failed to address the fundamental threshold issues required by ownership agreement for a valid transfer proposal.”

The utility planned to lay off half of its 100 employees at the plant on Sept. 19, Raymond Sandoval, director of corporate communities for the Public Service of New Mexico, told the newspaper, with the remaining employees expected to be laid off later in October after the plant has been safely shut down and immediate actions necessary to secure the site.

A San Juan County ordinance requires the utility to file a demolition plan “within three months of permanent plant closure,” Sandoval added.

Also of note: Westmoreland San Juan Mining LLC had reported earlier in September that its underground crews had mined the last ton of coal destined for the San Juan Generating Station.

Can there be any doubt about the future of this coal plant?


Power plant at Kemmerer, Wyo

“If all we get is a nuclear plant, we have failed. Wyoming is working to develop a nuclear industry, including uranium mining and production for a new generation of nuclear plants.”

– Michael Pearlman, a spokesman for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, in response to a query from the Casper Star-Tribune about the potential of a coal-fired plant at Kemmerer being replaced by a nuclear power plant.

The story noted that the project developer, TerraPower, plans to build the nuclear plant by 2028 on the site of Rocky Mountain Power’s Naughton Power Plant near Kemmerer. The project could become the first in the United States to repurpose the infrastructure from a coal plant.

The story was in response to a U.S. Department of Energy study that found that 32% of the nation’s operating coal power plants have retirement dates, and that coal-to-nuclear projects “appear to perform better economically than stand-alone, greenfield nuclear projects.” The study also noted economic potential in such conversions for benefitting disadvantaged communities.” The study found hundreds of operating or recently retired coal plants across the country meet the basic criteria for siting of a nuclear reactor: low human populations nearby and access to cooling sources, i.e. to cold water. Ten of Wyoming’s coal plants qualify.

“This isn’t an either/or scenario,” Glen Murrell, executive director of the Wyoming Energy Authority, told the Star-Tribune. “Wyoming supports a ‘coal AND nuclear’ future.”

The Star-Tribune also notes that the federal Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, provides tax credits that TerraPower believes will “help future utilities buy these reactors.” The bill also invests $700 million in support of the advanced nuclear supply chain introduced by the Energy Act of 2020. The Inflation Reduction Act mentions coal only four times – three of them referencing closures or retirements, but devotes billions of dollars to accelerating the move from coal.




Allen Best
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