Gov. Bill Ritter recently addressed the crowd at Tri-State Generation & Transmission's annual meeting in Westminster. He asked the energy company to share its concerns about Congress' plans to institute some form of a cap and trade program.
"I don't think anyone could stand before you today and say precisely what the energy future holds for all of us," Ritter said. "But I do know we can't go back to the old ways of doing business. This is a new time and a new era with new opportunities."
A cap and trade system would set a limit on how much pollution an energy producer could release, and it would require companies to purchase credits to pollute more.
President Barack Obama said he would be in favor of installing such a program during his campaign, and included a plan for one in a spending proposal sent to Congress in March.
Both chambers passed their respective budgets with the system in place, though Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said during his visit Tuesday to Craig the program likely will change before becoming legislation.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated cap and trade could generate between $50 billion and $300 billion a year by 2020.
Tri-State Communications Manager Jim Van Someren - whose company owns the coal power plant south of Craig - said Tri-State hopes Congress takes into account how generating that much government revenue could affect the overall economy.
As a wholesale power supplier, Tri-State's primary concerns are to provide reliable and affordable electricity, he said.
Van Someren added any potential legislation that could affect those goals should try to balance three legs of a stool: energy security, economic stability and environmental concerns.
"Yes, the concept of capping carbon emissions and forcing utilities and other carbon emitters to go to international carbon markets to buy carbon credits could drive costs up considerably with the effect of nearly doubling our current rates in less than 12 years under one scenario," Van Someren said.
Van Someren added a caveat that the various legislative initiatives proposed have included limited information, so Tri-State has had to make "many economic assumptions" in its findings.
He offered a suggestion that any legislation adopted should include ways for the industry to handle economic changes.
Ritter said Obama's plan contains a provision to allow additional emissions to "cushion transition costs."
"At the very least, we feel a safety valve price must be included in any climate policy, as it is needed to avoid runaway cost escalation and mitigate harmful economic conditions on the end-use consumer," Van Someren said. "Any climate policy is tightly linked to energy security and economic health, and both must be protected."