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Steel City

Pueblo, Colorado, hosts the state’s largest coal-fired power plant – Comanche – operated by Xcel Energy. But as Colorado looks to clean up its air and decarbonize, closing down coal facilities is top of the list. One of the newest coal facilities, the Comanche power plant was originally scheduled to operate until 2070. Now that has been moved up to January 1, 2031. And when Xcel decided to shut down Comanche, a big part of the conversation was what would happen to Xcel’s largest customer, the EVRAZ steel mill. Because for Pueblo, steel production has been a part of the city’s identity and economy for a long time, and the EVRAZ steel mill currently provides over 1,000 jobs. So shutting down emitters isn’t always simple for a town that depends on those industries for jobs and the tax base. That’s why companies like Xcel Energy, the government, and community leaders are coming together to figure out what a just transition looks like. And now, Pueblo is poised to be a leader in clean energy, helping with both climate change and local air pollution.

Community Data

Often there is a cultural catalyst that sparks change. And that catalyst can come from people being empowered with data, knowledge, and opportunity. Pueblo is an example of one of the communities where the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is collaborating to strategically place air monitors in a network that will create the most use out of the data being collected. And it gives community members the chance to voice their concerns and shape future programs and policies. Focusing on building trust represents a new way for the government to interact with the communities it is meant to serve and collectively work toward solutions.

Power to the People

Back in the Denver Metro Area, community members in the city of Aurora are also mobilizing to monitor the air and advocate for stronger air quality regulations. One group, the Black Parents United Foundation (BPUF), recently received a grant from the EPA to build out a network. BPUF also equips community members to advocate for themselves. That empowerment can make a big difference — as community members show up to provide comments at public meetings, rally for new policies, and take action to monitor their own air. 

Jamie Valdez, Colorado Senior Organizer, Mothers Out Front
Ashley R. Valdez, Area Manager of Community and Local Govt. Affairs, Xcel Energy
Michael Ogletree, Division Director for the Air Pollution Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Velma Campbell, National Leadership Team Member, Mothers Out Front
Shere Walker - Ravenell, Executive Director, Black Parents United Foundation

Further Reading

“Pueblo is a clean energy leader. But you might have to look close to see it,” Colorado Newsline, October 12, 2023.

“Pueblo environmental group seeks better air quality data to inform public,” The Pueblo Chieftain, April 2, 2023.

“Social Determinants of Health,”  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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