Denver, CO–Families gathered around Santa outside of the Denver Pavilions Mall Sunday morning asking for Clean Air for Colorado this holiday season. Citing grave concerns about children’s health, parents and kids asked Santa to ensure that the oldest, dirtiest coal plants in Colorado finally got replaced. After hearing their wishes, the Mining Association got singled out on the naughty list for opposing landmark clean air efforts, and the costumed Santa delivered industry headquarters a surprise lump of coal.
A decision is expected as early as this week from state regulators regarding the implementation of Colorado’s Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, which prompted the holiday gathering. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) begins deliberations tomorrow on the fate of the Valmont and Cherokee facilities. “The key question is whether these aging coal plants will be fully replaced by cleaner resources or if at least one major unit will be put on life support and kept operating,” noted Dana Hoffman of Environment Colorado who spearheaded the event. “And hanging in the balance is the air quality and quality of life for three million Coloradans for decades to come.”
More than a dozen parents, children and other concerned residents stood in line to deliver their wish lists to “Clean-Air Claus” who sat outside the downtown mall. Wishes included the end of the brown cloud, fewer cases of lung disease, relief for the tens of thousands of children in the metro-area suffering from asthma, a cleaner energy future, mercury free fish in mountain lakes, and fewer hospital visits by our kids and the elderly.
Dr. Linda Montgomery, a physician in family practice and mother of three, put healthier kids at the top of her wish list. “Over 60,000 of our children in the Denver metro area suffer from asthma. It's clear that incidence of asthma is strongly linked with levels of air pollution, a lot of which comes from burning coal. Considering asthma is an expensive and often life-long condition, I'd say shutting down coal and cleaning up our air is the best present we can give our kids this year,” explained Montgomery.
Avoiding postage to the North Pole, the event’s attendees also gave Santa stacks of letters echoing these concerns. The letters were among hundreds of comments that were gathered and delivered to the PUC in support of shutting down the five coal units over the course of the fall. In a recent survey, more than 79% of Colorado voters shared these sentiments, saying they strongly prefer renewable energy and natural gas instead of coal as an energy source for Colorado.
Ten-year-old Noah, who came to add his wishes to Clean-Air Claus’ list, was happy he went. “When I was six,” Noah explained, “I got really worried that if we let the globe get hot and didn’t stop it, the North Pole was going to melt and then where would Santa live? Now I know that its not the just the North Pole that’s in danger—it’s everywhere. It’s up to us to fix it.”
After hearing what’s at stake for Coloradans, Santa, played by Nathaniel Meyer, remarked, “I’ve finally figured out who’s naughty and who’s nice.” Noting that the coal industry lobby is a lonely voice in support of keeping these facilities operating and dirtying the air for millions of Coloradans, Meyer as Santa made the two-block journey to the Colorado Mining Association headquarters and delivered a stocking stuffed with lumps of coal.
The Public Utilities Commission is expected to announce its decision as early as Monday. Santa’s decisions are not expected until the 25th of this month.