Colorado Springs Utilities Studying Accelerated Drake Decommissioning Timetable

Sep 25, 2017

Colorado Springs Utilities is researching the possibility of closing its Martin Drake Power Plant sooner than a previously established 2035 deadline. Early results from a new survey suggest public support for such a move.

Citing air quality and environmental concerns, 58% of respondents so far say they’d be willing to pay 1-2% more in utility rates to speed up the closure of the coal-fired plant.

However, CSU spokesperson Amy Trinidad cautions that the results are still preliminary, and only those customers for whom the utility has an email address on file received the survey. She adds that there's still more outreach to be done. 

The survey is part of an ongoing larger effort to examine the potential impacts of—and level of community support for—decommissioning the plant early. Drake currently supplies around 20% of the city’s electricity.

According to Trinidad, the reexamination was prompted in part by changing "community perceptions," as well as by the results of this year's city council election, which brought several candidates to council who campaigned on speeding up the decommissioning process. She says CSU is studying several decommissioning scenarios, including target dates of 2025, 2030 and 2035.

The downtown Colorado Springs facility has faced criticism from environmental activists and a recent lawsuit over alleged Clean Air Act violations. Colorado Springs City Council President Richard Skorman, who has long advocated for retiring the plant, says there are economic arguments as well as environmental ones.

"The business community wants it gone because it’s a huge eyesore," he explains. "It takes up a lot of space [in that part of downtown], it makes it difficult for all that southwest urban renewal expansion to happen."

Skorman says he’d like to see the plant closed as soon as 2023, but the timeline will depend on options available to replace the energy generated by the plant. The utilities board, which is also city council, plans to take up the issue at the end of the year, once more research is available.