Coal industry impact goes beyond jobs, taxes

Tri-State and its various local entities are major donors across all spheres of the community’s spaces of need

Craig Station is nearly engulfed in steam and water vapor on a cold but warming Tuesday morning after a March snow.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

When the lights go off at Craig Station, it won’t only impact those who worked inside and their families. It will also impact the community in ways that are hard to calculate.

It is a challenge to fully quantify the amount of financial contributions that Tri-State makes to the community in a given year, because the financial impact of the energy supplier is so broad in Moffat County.

The not-for-profit wholesale power supplier contributes financially to the community through three avenues: on the Tri-State corporate level; through the Craig power station; and through Colowyo mine.

The contributions from these three streams range from obligatory tax payments to regular annual contributions. They also include regional charitable efforts and more one-off contributions for specific projects. The donations trickle down into the community in different ways.

On a higher level and scale, the tax payments from Tri-State and Colowyo are huge contributions to Craig and Moffat County’s local tax bases. In 2021, Tri-State paid approximately $7.4 million in taxes in Moffat County, with another $1.9 million paid by Colowyo/Axial Basin, according to an email from Tri-State Communications Representative Mark Stutz.

The tax dollars support the city of Craig, Moffat County School District, the Craig Fire District, the Artesia Fire District in Dinosaur, Moffat County Municipal Government, Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District, Upper Yampa Water District, Colorado Northwestern Community College and the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

On the ground level, Tri-State employees are also significant supporters of Moffat County United Way Annual Campaign, which contributes to numerous local health and human service nonprofits and programs.

“They provide a huge impact in the community,” said Kristen Olson, Moffat County United Way executive director.

United Way campaign dollars reach at least 4,000 local community members through programs, services and direct support. In 2019, Tri-State employees contributed $65,000 to the United Way Campaign, which made up 33% of United Way’s overall annual fundraising. In 2020, Tri-State employees contributed 22% of the annual campaign.

Olson said that the pandemic has affected employee contributions because United Way staff and board members were not able to visit workplaces in person to advocate for employees’ donations. Even with pandemic barriers, Tri-State employees still made up 15% of annual donations in 2021 and 16% in 2022.

“The numbers their donations reach is really amazing,” Olson said.

Outside of the United Way annual campaign, there are more than $15,000 grassroots donations to the community between the three sources — Tri-State, the Craig Station, and Colowyo mine — that go to local organizations and events. These donations include annual memberships to the Craig Chamber of Commerce (Cornerstone Member), Rotary Club and the Boys and Girls Club.

“Tri-State has been a consistent and trusted partner for the Boys and Girls Club for so long,” said Dana Duran, Boys and Girls Club executive director.

The grassroots giving includes donations for local youth events such as Moffat County High School After Prom; and Moffat County Balloon Festival, Moffat County Rodeo and Whittle the Wood, events which reach a large portion of the local population and generate regional tourism.

Duran noted that, since all of these dollars are currently being spent within the community, their absence after the closures will create a gap for the non-profit community. Local non-profit leaders have been working to understand the impact of the loss.

“We have had a lot of conversations, and we still have more to have,” Olson said.

As a whole, organizations are investigating the impact of the loss in tax revenue through the Human Resources Council (HRC), which is a combined fund from the city and county that supports local human service programs.

If these health and human services organizations didn’t exist, the cost of these services would have to be covered by the city and county. Typically, HRC funding is made up of $40,000 annually from both the city and county, equalling $80,000 overall. Olson said the last two years, HRC funding has been averaging at about $70,000.

The programs that receive support from HRC and United Way include dental, home health and hospice, assistance for low socio-economic families, support for victims of domestic violence, help for those with developmental disabilities, and mental health resources.

“As we consider our future, we have to remember that people from birth to end-of-life, and from any socio-economic status, need services that these organizations provide. Supporting these programs through financial contributions or through volunteer times is essential to keeping these services in our community,” Olson said.

Tri-State has also made concerted efforts to support special projects and initiatives for local education, outside of the taxes that go back to the school district. According to Stutz, in 2022, Tri-State will be contributing several thousand dollars in donations to the Moffat County High School Robotics, the Ridgeview Elementary School Robotics and Colorado Northwest Community College Cybersecurity Bootcamp Conference.

In recent years, Tri-State has made significant, one-time donations toward educational initiatives. In October 2020, Tri-State contributed $250,000 in-kind for the Electric Power Research Institute “Farm in a Box” at Moffat County High School.

Tri-State has also contributed large amounts to community projects in order to leverage matching funding from the state level. In April 2020, $150,000 in matching funds were donated to secure a Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant for infrastructure upgrades at Loudy-Simpson Park. In May 2019, Tri-State provided $385,000 in matching funds to secure a DOLA grant for improvements to County Roads 17 and 51, following construction at the Collom project.

For the last three years, Tri-State has also contributed $20,000 to the Yampa Fund, which funds projects along the Yampa River Basin to protect the water supply, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. In addition to financial support for river projects, Tri-State participated in the 2021 Yampa River Flow Pilot Project by releasing reserve water supply back into the river.

On Aug. 11, 2021, the Colorado River District began releasing from its 1,500 acre-feet pool dedicated to the pilot project. Once the pilot project supply was exhausted, on Sept. 16, Tri-State began releasing from a 750 acre-feet pool in Elkhead. In 2021, Tri-State’s release was more than 250 acre-feet of water, which was available to water users downstream of the Maybell Canal. In 2020, Tri-State released nearly 200 acre-feet of free water to downstream water users, according to Stutz.

“We have to appreciate the impact of organizations like Tri-State, and the people who have made that happen,” Olson said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.