Gas Interveners Left Hungry by Yes
Natural gas producers are the undisputed champions of HB 1365, a bill that calls for fuel switching from coal to natural gas. Yet they still want more! Today, it was the the gas interveners’ (Chesapeake and Anadarko) turn to offer their case for cross examination. In their September 17 direct testimony, they argued against Xcel’s original, preferred plan, because it didn’t fuel switch fast enough. They recommended Plan 7E, which would fuel switch fastest of all nine plans that Xcel originally modeled. There was little cross examination, perhaps because the other parties thought the gas interveners were kidding.
The Tangled Web One Weaves
PUC Chairman Ron Binz today was full of praise for Peabody Energy’s motion to scuttle deliberations on HB 1365. He called it “excellent” and “well-prepared,” although he ruled against Peabody’s request to expedite a decision on the motion’s merits.
Binz is right: Peabody’s is an excellent motion. It chronicles decisions and assertions of the PUC and Xcel, respectively, by which they belied their understanding that these proceedings were meant to address the plan that Xcel filed last August—and only that plan. They are made to look silly by their subsequent willingness to consider a new set of plans.
Legally, I think Peabody’s motion will founder on the discretion accorded by HB 1365 to the PUC to “modify” Xcel’s plan. Indeed, virtually all of Peabody’s arguments already have been contested. It is also worth remembering that the PUC gets to play its own judge and jury.
Nonetheless, the motion serves to demonstrate just how off course these hearings have run. At the outset, everyone thought this would be a walk in the park. I think the perpetrators of HB 1365 clearly underestimated the ferocity with which affected parties would guard their economic self interest.
William Yeatman is an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute