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New draft bill to put nail in coffin of coal, make impacted communities dependent on state

New draft bill to put nail in coffin of coal, make impacted communities dependent on state

Warning to the rural Colorado, remember Ronald Reagan’s nine most terrifying words in the English language, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

According to sources, industrial wind supporters and Xcel Energy are floating another Colorado version of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) titled “Colorado Energy Impact Assistance Act.” A better working title is “Colorado’s Expensive, Unreliable Power Plan that Makes Rural Residents Wards of the State.”

The complicated, 45-page draft was sent to us by a source and has not yet been introduced because it is awaiting a fiscal note, as indicated on the draft. We’ve seen this kind of behavior before with HB10-1365, Clean Air, Clean Job Act. Introduce a lengthy and complex bill at the end of the session when few have time to study it. Supporters and lobbyists work the bill before the rest of us even know it has passed a legislative chamber.

Even though the bill is lengthy and complex, its intent is clear: kill coal and the state will throw some crumbs (they call it “assistance”) to impacted communities at ratepayers’ expense. Warning to the natural gas industry and those communities, you’re next.

A few of the horrible highlights include:

  • Allows for closing coal-fired power plants before the end of their lifecycle and replacing them with wind citing “anticipated environmental laws and regulations.” Who is passing these anticipated environmental laws and regulations because it’s not the feds.
  • Acknowledges the premature “retirement of electric generating facilities may have direct economic impacts on Colorado communities where these facilities are located” and where coal is mined. They know it will be expensive.
  • Creates a new layer of bureaucracy called the “Colorado Energy Impact Assistance Authority,” a Governor-appointed, seven-member board that will “provide transition assistance and pay its reasonable and necessary administrative and operating cost.”
  • Transition Assistance is defined as including:
    • payment of retraining costs including costs of apprenticeship programs and skilled worker retraining programs, for and financial assistance to directly displaced Colorado facility workers
    • compensation to Colorado local governments for lost property tax revenue directly resulting from the retirement of a facility
    • similar payments, job retraining, assistance, and compensation for directly displaced Colorado workers, and local governments in areas that produce fuel used in the retired facility directly resulting from the elimination of the need to provide fuel for a retired facility.
  • Forces customers to pay for bonds that utilities will issue to pay for their fuel switching, “payment of…charge…may not be avoided by any customer located within an electric utility service area,…must be paid by all existing and future customers receiving transmission or distribution service from the electric utility or its successors…even if a customer elects to purchase electricity from an electric supplier other than the utility.” Under TABOR, Colorado residents get to vote on state bonding but will have no right to vote on consumer-guaranteed bonds.

This bill isn’t happening in a vacuum. Consider the following recent events:

  • Three weeks ago, rather than submit a new Electric Resource Plan (ERP), Xcel floats a bill to get the state legislature to rubber stamp its current ERP, which was predicated on Hillary Clinton winning and the costly Clean Power Plan surviving in some fashion.
  • A week ago Thursday, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission votes 2 to 1 to force Xcel Energy to model for a $40 per ton social cost of carbon (SCC).
  • As promised, President Trump issues an executive order rolling back the Obama-era energy regulations including the highly-flawed SCC and the CPP.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper says the federal directive “will not deter Colorado’s efforts” and doubles down on expensive wind energy and higher electricity rates.
  • And now, Xcel and its supporters are floating a second bill to gain legislative authority to prematurely retire coal plants, fuel switch to unreliable, expensive wind, and put rural Colorado residents at the economic mercy of a Governor-appointed, seven-member board.

This seems like an orchestrated attack. Denver-centric lawmakers, a Minnesota-based monopoly utility, and our Governor with presidential aspirations collude to bury everything associated with coal, drive up electricity rates, allow Xcel to profit, and throw crumbs to what’s left of rural Colorado.

Some questions to consider:

  • What plants will be closed? Hayden? Pawnee? Craig?
  • What communities will be impacted? Craig? Brush?
  • What happens to all the ancillary jobs in the impacted communities?
  • Do residents of those communities want to be wards of the state?
  • Do ratepayers get any say in this?
  • Will majority Republicans in the Colorado Senate have the courage to stop it?

We are here because of a decade of progressive left environmental policies that supporters and profiteers call the new energy economy. The most important question, are we too late?