Chuck McConnell: Costly to rural Colorado | SteamboatToday.com

Chuck McConnell: Costly to rural Colorado

If the Colorado Assembly has its way, the electric bills of hundreds of thousands of rural Colorado families, ranchers, farmers and businesses will increase needlessly. Senate Democrats introduced Senate Bill 252, which will expand by 150 percent the amount of high-cost electricity from renewable sources required by Colorado's electric co-ops.

In 2007, Colorado lawmakers passed a bill that created a 10 percent renewable standard for electric co-ops, which largely serve rural Colorado, by the year 2020. Senate Bill 252 mandates co-ops to now purchase 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. This will increase electric rates to rural customers significantly. It already costs more to bring electricity to rural areas with customers farther apart and infrastructure costs more expensive than urban areas.

High-cost energy hurts economies and retards job creation. The significantly greater dependence on renewable sources will have the added negative effect on Western Colorado communities whose economic base depends on jobs from low-cost power supplied by conventional sources such as coal.

Senate Bill 252 now includes coal mine methane gas capture (which I wrote about in a Feb. 27 letter) and waste-to-energy as renewable electricity sources. Earlier this year, Sens. Randy Baumgardner and Kevin Grantham introduced bills to accomplish this, but their efforts were killed in committee by the Senate majority. While inclusion of these two renewable energy sources is a positive, it will not be enough to meet the new higher requirements of SB 252. Unfortunately, most of the new renewable electricity will have to come from high-cost sources, some of which will be bought from out of state.

It is sad in these rough economic times that our single-party Colorado state government would impose a law that has the same effect as a tax increase on its people by passing expensive legislation cleverly introduced under the cover of environmental benefit. This just does not make common sense.

SB 252 now looks certain to pass in the Senate. Let our representatives know this bill is costly to the people of Northwest Colorado and should not be passed into law.

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Chuck McConnell

Steamboat Springs

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