AGNC files testimony against Xcel plans

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Doug Monger, a Routt County commissioner and Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado board chairman, said he has little faith in the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

He said he doubts the PUC will take into serious consideration the numerous public comments and testimonies provided by residents and agencies of Northwest Colorado in regards to Xcel Energy’s emission reduction plans required by Colorado House Bill 10-1365.

“They have to listen, (but) they don’t have to do anything,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, with the way this operation has been going forward so far, I don’t think they (will) do anything.”

However, Monger’s doubt has not stopped AGNC from taking part in protesting Xcel’s plans for complying with the bill, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, he said.

The PUC will host evidentiary hearings for intervening parties, like AGNC, starting Oct. 21, PUC spokesman Terry Bote said. The hearings are one of the last steps the PUC will take before they make a ruling on the plans.

Monger said an AGNC attorney will be on hand for the hearings.

After Xcel filed its plans with the PUC, intervening parties were able to file their own testimonies and rebuttals, Bote said.

Monger said AGNC filed such a testimony opposing Xcel’s plans on Sept. 17.

“All of the testimony that has been pre-filed has been Xcel’s proposed preferred plan and then everybody commenting about that,” Bote said. “So, we’ll go through the two weeks of hearings where all the parties will have an opportunity to fully vet all of their questions and issues surrounding that plan.”

According to a news release from Xcel, the emission reduction plans call for retiring 903 megawatts of coal generation at two Front Range power plants and re-powering those and other plants with natural gas power.

After the hearings, the PUC will take all of the previous evidence, testimony and public comments received into consideration before they are required to make a decision by Dec. 15, Bote said.

The PUC heard a total of about 140 public testimonies, Bote said, between the public comment hearings in Grand Junction and Denver in late August and mid-September, which hundreds of Northwest Colorado coal miners and community members attended.

There were 22 written statements received by the PUC in addition to the thousands of pages of evidence filed by intervening parties, Bote said.

About 30 intervening parties have submitted evidence to the PUC, including local governments, environmental organizations, state agencies and industrial energy consumers, among others, Bote said.

Monger said AGNC’s testimony addresses several concerns of the organization’s members, such as Moffat and Routt counties.

“We are still trying to emphasize what a catastrophic hit this is going to be to our coal industry and our local economy in Northwest Colorado, not having that opportunity to extract coal and have a market for it,” he said.

Monger said the testimony also addresses a lack of research on the economic impacts the plans could have on Northwest Colorado.

“They are saying that … they are going to have another market for (the coal),” Monger said. “Well, if we would have had another market for the coal, we would have already been using it and shipping 12 million tons of coal out of Northwest Colorado versus 8 million tons of coal.”

AGNC’s testimony also addresses concerns about a potential increase in consumers’ energy bills, Monger said.

“We really don’t know what that bill is,” Monger said. “We are included in those rate payers who are going to be paying that higher rate, even though the power is going to be generated on the Front Range. So, we get to take a double whammy up here in Northwest Colorado.”

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said the best chance AGNC and Moffat County have of altering or stopping Xcel’s plans is through the PUC.

“I’m hoping (the PUC) will sit down and read the letters and the testimonies and say, ‘In a stressed economy, this isn’t the time to change fuels and raise people’s electric bills,’” Mathers said.

Mathers wants as many people as possible to write letters to the PUC in protest of Xcel’s plans, and to “not just say it is a done deal,” he said.

“In today’s world, people get pretty complacent and they sit back and they say, ‘Oh yeah, somebody else will send the letters. I don’t need to,’” he said. “For once, just once, everybody needs to sit down and write a letter to the PUC and tell them, ‘I don’t need higher utility bills.’”

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