5 episodes

In rural northwestern Colorado, the town of Craig is at a crossroads. Coal has long been the primary employer and economic driver in this small, tight-knit community, which takes pride in providing energy to the surrounding region. Here, coal is an identity. A duty. A way of life. But something is about to change.

In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Colorado is moving on from fossil fuels. And in 2020, Tri-State, the local electrical utility, announced that it would close the Craig coal-fired power plant and coal mines by the end of the decade. Now, residents face an uncertain future. Some business owners and local officials are seeking to reinvent Craig’s economy. Others still hold out hope of a coal revival.

This is a story about the energy we use every day. But it's also a story about values and resilience in the face of change. Craig is only the latest American coal town to face a transition. It won't be the last. Can it succeed where others have failed?

Coal at Sunset: A Colorado Town in Transition was created by the Institute for Science & Policy at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and is produced in partnership with House of Pod.

Coal at Sunset: A Colorado Town in Transition The Institute for Science & Policy

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 24 Ratings

In rural northwestern Colorado, the town of Craig is at a crossroads. Coal has long been the primary employer and economic driver in this small, tight-knit community, which takes pride in providing energy to the surrounding region. Here, coal is an identity. A duty. A way of life. But something is about to change.

In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Colorado is moving on from fossil fuels. And in 2020, Tri-State, the local electrical utility, announced that it would close the Craig coal-fired power plant and coal mines by the end of the decade. Now, residents face an uncertain future. Some business owners and local officials are seeking to reinvent Craig’s economy. Others still hold out hope of a coal revival.

This is a story about the energy we use every day. But it's also a story about values and resilience in the face of change. Craig is only the latest American coal town to face a transition. It won't be the last. Can it succeed where others have failed?

Coal at Sunset: A Colorado Town in Transition was created by the Institute for Science & Policy at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and is produced in partnership with House of Pod.

    The Other Craigs

    The Other Craigs

    In Craig, Colorado, one big question looms: What if the transition fails? Transitions are nothing new, and American history is full of cautionary tales. When big industries fail or move away, bad things can happen to the small towns that rely on them.  Think about timber mills closing in rural areas of the Pacific Northwest. Or fisheries collapsing in New England. Or Midwestern automotive factories moving offshore. Some of those communities managed to survive. Many didn’t.
    Since the mid-2000s, coal closures have washed over the U.S. like a wave.
    As President, Donald Trump pledged he'd restore the livelihoods of coal workers. But by the end of his term, coal jobs were as endangered as ever.
    In Appalachia, closures hit small towns hard. Muhlenberg, Kentucky. Manchester, Ohio. McDowell County, West Virginia. The list goes on. Schools, hospitals, and other public services withered. People moved away.
    We wanted to get some national perspective on coal-impacted communities. We wanted to see what we've learned from other towns that are further ahead in their transitions. Most of all, we wanted to know if Craig could succeed where others failed.
    To explore more from this episode, visit https://coalatsunset.org/episodes/episode-4-the-other-craigs/
    Host: Kristan Uhlenbrock
    Guests: 
    • Heidi Binko, Executive Director of the Just Transition Fund
    • Chris Markuson, Director of Colorado and State Economic Transition Policy at the BlueGreen Alliance
    • Kirstie McPherson, owner of 518 Wine Bar and The Find
    • Tim Wohlgenant, Executive Director, Yampa Valley Community Foundation
    Coal at Sunset: A Colorado Town in Transition was created by the Institute for Science & Policy at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and produced in partnership with House of Pod. 
    To hear bonus clips and find additional resources, visit https://coalatsunset.org/
     

    • 31 min
    You Knew

    You Knew

    Why is Colorado phasing out coal? Simply put: Planet Earth is warming up. Fast. For decades, scientific evidence has pointed to significant human influence on our climate, dating back to the Industrial Revolution. Burning fossil fuels like coal releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. 
    Climate change increases the volatility in our systems. And the catastrophic effects are already being felt. The U.S. has experienced a record-breaking number of weather disasters in recent years, including droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires. 
    In 2019, the Colorado legislature took its boldest step yet toward addressing climate change. House Bill 1261 committed Colorado to a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and a 90% reduction by 2050. Almost every sector would be affected.
    Electrical utilities, like Tri-State would need to generate more of their power from renewables like wind and solar. The bill signaled the beginning of the end for coal plants in the state.
    For others, the bill was seen as an overreach and another example of the glaring rural-urban divide in America today.
    How do we balance the need to protect the planet with the need to protect livelihoods?
    To explore more from this episode, visit https://coalatsunset.org/episodes/episode-3-you-knew/
    Host: Kristan Uhlenbrock
    Guests:
    • Waleed Abdalati, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder
    • Ray Beck, retired Moffat County commissioner and former mayor of Craig
    • KC Becker, former Colorado Speaker of the House
    • Jennifer Holloway, Executive Director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce
    Coal at Sunset: A Colorado Town in Transition was created by the Institute for Science & Policy at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and produced in partnership with House of Pod.
    To hear bonus clips and find additional resources, visit https://coalatsunset.org/

    • 34 min
    The Cost

    The Cost

    In our second episode, we travel inside the Craig coal-fired station to learn more about the science and economics of coal amidst a rapidly changing renewable energy landscape. For centuries, society has relied on coal because it's been dependable. Reserves can be stored indefinitely and burned as needed to meet electricity demand in any weather, any time of day.
    But coal has been losing ground to renewables like wind and solar for decades as the prices of cleaner, greener technologies have come way down. And now, Colorado has made greenhouse gas reductions a priority. Coal is no longer the market driver it once was.
    Energy is a global challenge. But the transition is well underway. What will the state reasonably be able to achieve over the next decade? And what will that mean for our electricity?
    To hear bonus clips and additional resources for this episode, visit https://coalatsunset.org/episodes/episode-2-the-cost/
    Host: Kristan Uhlenbrock
    Guests:
    • Tim Osborn, plant manager, Craig station
    • Suzanne Tegen, Assistant Director, Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University
    • Bob Rankin, Colorado State Senator, District 8
    Coal at Sunset: A Colorado Town in Transition was created by the Institute for Science & Policy at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and produced in partnership with House of Pod. 
    For more, visit https://coalatsunset.org/

    • 29 min
    The Decision

    The Decision

    There's a popular saying in Craig, Colorado: "Coal keeps the lights on."
    But in 2020, the electrical utility Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association announced that it would close its coal-fired power plant and coal mines in Craig by 2030. The news was like an earthquake. Hundreds of jobs would be lost. The town now faces the prospect of massive economic disruption as its primary industry disappears.
    In our first episode, we travel to Craig and hear from the CEO at the center of that decision, a coal worker bracing for change, and one local business owner who's already looking for ways to reinvent the town's identity. What will Craig do now?
    To explore more from this episode, visit https://coalatsunset.org/episodes/episode-1-the-decision/
    Host: Kristan Uhlenbrock
    Guests: 
    • Duane Highley, CEO, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association
    • Jennifer Holloway, Executive Director, Craig Chamber of Commerce
    • Kirstie McPherson, owner, 518 Wine Bar & The Find
    • Graham Roberts, environmental supervisor, Trapper Mining Inc.
    Coal at Sunset: A Colorado Town in Transition was created by the Institute for Science & Policy at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and was produced in partnership with House of Pod.
    To hear bonus clips and find additional resources, visit https://coalatsunset.org/

    • 31 min
    Introducing Coal at Sunset

    Introducing Coal at Sunset

    In rural northwestern Colorado, the town of Craig is at a crossroads. Coal has long been the primary employer and economic driver in this small, tight-knit community, which takes pride in providing energy to the surrounding region. Here, coal is an identity. A duty. A way of life.

    But something is about to change. The nearby coal plant and mines will close by decade's end as Colorado moves on from fossil fuels. Now, Craig faces an uncertain future.

    • 1 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
24 Ratings

24 Ratings

ilovemoose456 ,

Honest, thoughtful reporting

Finally, an energy transition story that centers both the science of climate change AND the real people affected by the sunset of coal. Thank you for crafting such a nuanced, complicated story that captures this challenging but necessary moment in history.

Wild by nature ,

A fascinating story

I can’t wait to hear the other episodes! Such a complex, important story about energy and our future. High quality production and great characters.

Bridge Builder 5280 ,

Timely & Powerful

This is an important story at an important moment. Great quality production!

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