Two Moffat County Commissioners took issue with a statement released Monday night by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter endorsing Colorado House Bill 10-1365 and encouraging the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to pass plans to implement the bill.
Commissioner Tom Gray said Ritter’s statement on the bill, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, is “a straw man vision that embraces higher energy cost and not very much common sense.”
“It doesn’t take into account what we have as natural resources in Colorado,” Gray said. “It doesn’t take into account how it affects local communities. It takes into account a vision of higher energy costs and steps in a direction that doesn’t reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
The PUC is currently mulling plans proposed by Xcel Energy to comply with the bill by retiring coal-fired generation at several Front Range power plants in favor of natural gas, and implementing emission controls on other plants.
In his release, Ritter said over the last several years in Colorado, “we have created thousands of jobs, adopted 57 forward-thinking laws and built a clean-energy economy that is now a model for other states to follow.”
“The capstone to all of this is the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, a bipartisan initiative supported by a broad coalition of interests that will again make Colorado a national energy trendsetter,” Ritter said in the release.
The bill, Ritter said in the release, is a “cost-effective” way to comply with federal clean-air regulations while “building local economies.”
“The bipartisan Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act provides the path forward for Colorado to fully transition by 2017 from the largest sources of pollution in the Denver metro area — delivering healthier air, a steady flow of clean electricity, and a stronger clean energy economy,” Ritter said in the release.
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers took issue with Ritter’s claim that approving Xcel’s plans would strengthen local economies. The commissioner said he was told by an Xcel representative the only jobs created by the bill would come from initial construction or retrofitting of the power plants in question.
“After that, he said the real jobs it created was 14,” Mathers said. “Subtract that from several hundred coal miners and to me, that is not a very good exchange.”
Mathers also took issue with the notion the power plants were the largest source of emissions in the metro area. He contends automobiles are deserving of that title.
“In fact, I can’t think of who would disagree with me,” he said. “The gas company even agreed with me on that and they said, ‘Yes, but it is almost impossible to attack the auto industry and make everybody comply with something.’”
Gray said he was concerned with the notion the bill would make Colorado an “energy trendsetter.”
“I think we need all forms of energy and I think renewables, where they are appropriate and cost effective, are great,” he said.
On Monday, the PUC reached general agreement on several parts of Xcel’s plan for complying with the bill, which included shutting down six units of coal-fired generation at three Front Range power plants.
PUC spokesman Terry Bote said the PUC agreed to have Xcel retire Unit 1 and 2 at the Cherokee Station by 2011, and Unit 3 by 2017.
The PUC also agreed to have the Arapahoe Station’s Unit 3 shut down by 2013 and to have Unit 4 stop burning coal and switch to natural gas by 2014. The PUC will also recommend shutting down Valmont Station’s Unit 5 by 2017, Bote said.
The PUC agreed to allow Xcel to build a gas-fired power plant near the Cherokee Station to replace some of the coal-fired generation lost. The plant would be a new 569-megawatt plant and would cost about $530 million, an Xcel spokesman said.
The PUC also approved modern emission control technologies to be installed at the Pawnee and Hayden Stations totaling $340 million.
Bote said the PUC would continue discussing a plan today. The PUC still needs to decide how to handle Xcel’s cost recovery and the fate of Cherokee Unit 4.
“The deliberations are technically ongoing and the commission can come back and sort-of revisit anything they said,” Bote said. “I don’t expect that to happen, but technically they could.”
The PUC is expected to issue an oral decision today and a written decision before Dec. 15, which Xcel can accept or deny, Bote said.
When asked why he thought Ritter would make such a statement praising the bill and encouraging the PUC to approve the plans, Mathers could only think of one thing.
It is a problem Mathers said Moffat County has experienced before.
“Ritter ended up being another mayor of Denver and not a governor of Colorado,” he said.