Cherokee Station

From Global Energy Monitor

Cherokee Station is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Xcel Energy near Denver, Colorado.

Units 1-2 of the plant were shut down in 2011-2012 and will be replaced with a 530 MW combined cycle natural gas plant, planned to come online in 2015. Unit 3 was shut down in 2015.[1] Unit 4 was converted to natural gas in 2017.[2]

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Environmental justice

The plant is one of 100 coal plants near residential areas. There are 61,559 people within a 3-mile radius of the plant. The average per capita income of the population living within a 3-mile radius is $13,682, compared with an average capita income of $21,587 for the United States (year 2000 data). Within a 3-mile radius of the plant, 64.4% of the population is non-white.[3]

Xcel promises to cut Colorado pollution by 2017

In March 2010, Colorado's largest utility Xcel Energy promised to cut air pollution over the next seven years. It will do so by either retiring Front Range coal-fired power plants or replacing them with natural gas and other sources of power. The company is required to submit plans by Aug. 15 to the state Public Utilities Commissions to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at coal plants by up to 80 percent over the next eight years.[4]

In August, 2010 Xcel filed its plan to curb emissions from its coal-fired power plants along the front range. The plan stated that Xcel would shut down the Cherokee Station's fourth coal-fired generator by 2022 and replace it with a new, natural gas-fired generator. Xcel’s plan also called for the shutdown of Cherokee’s three other coal units before 2017, as well as the construction of a new natural gas plant.

However, in late September 2010, the Colorado public health department and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) went after Xcel’s $1.3 billion plan to curb emissions from these power plants. The PUC stated that when it ruled that it can’t consider actions that occur after 2017 — the deadline in the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment stated that Xcel's “truncated plan” that stops at 2017, and does not include shutting down Cherokee’s fourth coal unit, won’t meet tighter ozone regulations that are expected from the federal government and thus won’t meet the intent of the Clean Air, Clean Jobs law.

Hearings on Xcel's plan are set for late October, 2010.[5]

Xcel had announced the Cherokee Station 4 coal-fired plant is scheduled to be shuttered in 2022. However, Xcel Energy announced in November 2010 its intent to close the plant, located north of Denver, in 2017, five years earlier than expected. The change of plans comes on the heels of the recently enacted Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. As part of the legislation, Xcel receives financial incentives in exchange for a $1.3billion program of phasing out coal-fueled plants in favor of natural gas. The program targets plants in Boulder and Denver for conversion while facilities in Brush and Hayden would be upgraded to reduce pollution.[6]

As of November 2010, Xcel is also considering shutting down its Valmont Station Unit 5.[7]

Plant Data

  • Owner: Public Service Company of Colorado
  • Parent Company: Xcel Energy
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 801 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 125 MW (1957), 125 MW (1959), 170 MW (1962), 381 MW (1968)
  • Location: 6198 Franklin St., Denver, CO 80216
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.807697, -104.962996
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source: Foidel Creek Mine[8]
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 5,468,495 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 7,116 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 10,203 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 119 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Cherokee Station

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[9] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[10]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Cherokee Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 17 $120,000,000
Heart attacks 25 $2,700,000
Asthma attacks 310 $16,000
Hospital admissions 12 $270,000
Chronic bronchitis 11 $4,900,000
Asthma ER visits 15 $6,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Citizen action

Colorado resident Ashara Ekundayo speaks about environmental racism.

November 18, 2009: Demonstrators protest Cherokee and Valmont Stations: Denver, CO

Protesters dressed as clowns visited Colorado Governor Ritter's office to urge him to "stop clowning around when it comes to confronting global warming." Environmental groups are opposed to Xcel Energy's request to renew expired permits at its Cherokee and Valmont Stations and want the state to pursue clean energy options instead. New research has shown that nitrogen oxide emissions are clouding lakes, changing lake biology, and threatening the aquatic life in the Colorado mountains.[11]

November 19, 2009: Residents pack regulator's hearing on Cherokee: Denver, CO

Local residents packed a public hearing by state air-quality regulators, urging officials to deny Xcel's request to renew its permit for Cherokee Station. More than 50 people spoke in opposition to the plant and advocated for a switch to cleaner energy sources. Residents argued that at minimum, regulators should work with Xcel to ramp up natural-gas systems at the plant, and then switch to solar and wind as those technologies mature.[12]

November 30, 2009: Activists stage "Die-In" at Department of Public Health and Environment in Denver, CO

Fifteen activists demonstrated outside the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) to demand the denial of Xcel Energy's request to renew its air permit for Cherokee Station. The protesters greeted DPHE employees as they arrived for work and called on the department to close the coal plant. Protestors staged a "die-in" to call attention to the harmful health and environmental effects of coal. Other activists wore hazmat suits and roped off the area with "Global Warming Crime Scene" tape.[13]

NAACP Clearing the Air Road Tour

Colorado resident Myron Wilson speaks about air pollution from plant.

In April 2010, Jacqui Patterson of the NAACP Climate Justice interviewed community members in Denver. Patterson interviewed Myron Wilson, who lives just north of Denver in Aurora. Wilson shared his perspective on the Cherokee plant and its hazard to communities.

Patterson also interviewed Ashara Ekundayo, culture worker, co-founder of Blue and Yellow Logic and Green For All Fellows. Ekundayo conducted a tour of the area near the Cherokee Station and the rail line that carries the uncovered coal to be process, spreading coal dust in the surrounding areas.[14]

Citizen groups

Articles and Resources


  1. Alicia Wallace, "Utilities, Colorado formulating actions for Clean Power Plan," The Denver Post, 8/05/2015
  2. "Coal’s future as a power source in Colorado flickering," The Denver Post, September 3, 2017
  3. FreeDemographics Beta database, SRC website, accessed April 2009. For additional notes on the demographic data, see Coal plants near residential areas
  4. "Xcel Promises to Cut Pollution in Colorado" AP Press, March 5, 2010
  5. "Xcel's clean air plan hits snag" Cathy Proctor, Denver Business Journal, October 5, 2010.
  6. Maryalene LaPonsie, "Green energy jobs are coming to Colorado" Utilities, Nov. 8, 2010.
  7. Mark Jaffe, "Nation watching Xcel's plans for aging coal-fired power plants" The Denver Post, Nov. 7, 2010.
  8. "EIA 423 and Schedule 2 of EIA-923," EIA 923 Schedules 2, 2011.
  9. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  10. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  11. Bruce Finley, "Protesters want Colorado to 'stop clowning around' on clean air," Denver Post, November 19, 2009.
  12. Bruce Finley, "Air panel urged to deny pollution permit for Xcel coal plant," Denver Post, November 20, 2009.
  13. "Denver N30:Local Citizens ‘Die-in’ at Dept. of Public Health and Environment in Protest over Coal," It's Getting Hot in Here, November 30, 2009.
  14. Jacqui Patterson, "Day VI Clearing the Air Road Tour — Denver, CO — Cherokee Plant," NAACP Climate Justice Initiative, April 21, 2010.

Related articles

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