By: Olivia Dicks
Changes in climate and the effort to reduce industrial emissions of greenhouse gasses are beginning to create significant uncertainties for power plant workers and those who use electricity in Colorado Springs.
“The industry has basically flipped on its head,” according to Ian Gavin, the plant manager at the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs. Coal today is considered Earth’s enemy, but “coal was king,” when Gavin began working in the business of generating electricity, he said. These changes are increasing uncertainty for workers at the plant.
A lot involving the plant is changing, but workers aren’t worried about their jobs, said David Bertrand, a power plant operator at Martin Drake Power Plant. The slow-paced industry gives workers time to adjust. “You have to adapt and go with it,” Bertrand said.
Colorado Springs leaders have said the power plant must be decommissioned before 2035. “When 2035 comes, who knows, I could be doing something completely different,” said Bertrand.
The lack of change in the power plant and climate warming could affect many different jobs in the community. “I could see it in future ski resorts, seasons could be compressed,” said John Putnam, environmental program director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
With the temperature rising, we could start experiencing shorter ski seasons that would decrease the need for as many employees, and it could affect jobs, he said. Fewer jobs could have an affect on the mental health of employees and people who have been laid off, Putnam said.
Although these are current problems, they’re going to “affect the younger generations for a longer span of their life,” so it’s crucial for younger generations to get more involved and active in the situation, Putnam said. Most people who are involved in public meetings now are older generations who have little impact on the matter, Putnam believes if younger generations were to “engage with local groups and larger national environmental groups,” their voices would be heard. It could have a greater effect than what is happening now.
Some citizens of Colorado Springs are trying to protest the power plant and get it shut down because of the detrimental impact it has on the environment. Still, they do this without realizing how much it will affect them because “right now the site is responsible for one-quarter of Colorado Springs,” said Gavin. This creates a bit of tension because there is little communication between the citizens of Colorado Springs and the workers of the plant. The people see it as having detrimental effects on the Earth, and the workers see it as “if we turn off the lights here, we turn them off for a lot of people,” said Gavin.
As climates begin changing more, environmentalists, coal-fired power plant workers, and Colorado Springs’ citizens are conflicting. With the attempt to slow down the emission of greenhouse gases from the power plant, many jobs are being affected and are adapting to this new way of life, that they’re hoping will change with new generations.