For the past two years, the community of Lamar, Colorado, a small town 200 miles southeast of Denver, has been suffering from negative consequences from the construction and maintenance of a newly opened coal plant in the center of their town. Community leaders in conjunction with WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group based in Santa Fe, and the University of Denver’s Environmental Law Clinic are filing a lawsuit against the Lamar Light and Power Company (LLP) under the Clean Air Act. Since the LLP and the Arkansas River Power Authority jointly decided in 2008 to convert the town’s “aging power source” which ran on natural gas into a coal plant, residents of Lamar have complained of various problems related to the plant, including noise violations, clean air issues, odor, toxic emissions, and more. In addition to these health concerns, the plant has placed financial stress on the town. The estimated cost of construction was $66 million dollars, but ultimately the cost surpassed $122 million. Although local laws require a public vote on civic matters, such as opening new industrial plants in the town, the plant was installed without having a public vote, depriving the community of a chance to voice their input.
As Westword reporter, Alan Pendergrast, explains, it “has logged more than a thousand violations of emissions standards.” LLP president Rick Rigel addressed the growing resistance in Lamar, calling the townspeople who have filed complaints a “small but vocal minority.” Now, though, the community has garnered 900 signatures for a petition and is taking the power company to court. This lawsuit is representative not only of Lamar but of other small towns, such as Colorado’s Cherokee and Comanche. Pendergrast indicates that due to a lack of government response, citizens like the townspeople of Lamar have taken the initiative with this lawsuit that could have “far-reaching consequences” for both “state energy policy” and for other small communities nation-wide facing similar problems. Recently, Xcel Energy announced their intent to close or improve coal plants. So far, this has failed to make an impact on the plants and communities of Lamar and Comanche. spending
Sources: “Black Out: Lamar gets steamed over a troubled plant-right in the middle of town” Alan Pendergrast, The Denver Westword, September 29, 2010
“Group protests Lamar power plant: City and utility officials say complaints are baseless” Anthony A. Mestas, The Pueblo Cheiftain, September 25, 2009
“Nation watching Xcel’s plans for aging coal-fired power plants” Mark Jaffe, The Denver Post, November 7, 2010
Student Researchers: Marisa Rouse, Ìbíjoké Òké, Lucy Chen
Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley
Evaluator: James Mills, Ph.D., Geoscientist, DePauw University