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Colorado ditches coal

December 10, 2010 |  8:15 am

Valmont rally picture

As part of a groundbreaking plan to reduce pollution from power plants, Colorado's Public Utilities Commission has decided to replace all coal-fired power plants in the Denver area. It's the first time a state has moved to shutter coal-burning plants to battle air pollution.

The commission approved the proposal Thursday afternoon, which was sparked by a law, passed with bipartisan support this year, that required the state to sharply cut its emissions. The plan is expected to cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 86%.

There will be a cost in replacing Xcel Energy's four coal-fired power plants. Ratepayers will see an increase of 2.4%, or about $1.40 a month, as the plants shift to natural gas. The coal industry has vowed legal action to block the change.

Environmental groups hailed the move as a milestone in the fight for cleaner energy. “We applaud the monumental, forward thinking action that the PUC has taken to ensure a clean and affordable energy future for Coloradans,” said the Sierra Club's Roger Singer. “We thank the commissioners and Xcel Energy for committing to retiring dirty coal, cleaning up our air quality and moving forward with cleaner energy options.”

-- Nicholas Riccardi

Photo: Activists rally outside one of the four coal-powered plants that will be converted. Credit: Nathaniel Janowitz / Sierra Club

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