CMA joins in suits against PUC

The Colorado Mining Association has joined the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado to take action against the Public Utilities Commission in Routt County District Court.

“Today marks the beginning of an independent and impartial review of the actions of the Commission, which were taken at the expense of electricity consumers through out Colorado and the citizens of local communities who rely upon the good jobs generated by coal mining,” CMA president Stuart Sanderson said in a release.

AGNC filed lawsuits last week asking to set aside the PUC’s decision to approve the Public Service Company of Colorado’s plan to switch from using coal to natural gas at Front Range power plants. They also ask the court to independently review and set aside the PUC’s decision to deny CMA’s motion for disqualification of two of the three PUC commissioners.

The suits are in response to the effects of House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act.

In a statement released Tuesday, the CMA notes tight deadlines that limited the opportunity for public input on the act.

The CMA says that the cost of PUC’s plan to consumers is more than 1.3 billion and that the PUC rejected lower cost alternatives proposed by the association. CMA also predicts that electricity increases of up to 50 percent are possible under a plan to end coal use.

“This plan will impose drastically higher costs on Colorado ratepayers while harming Colorado’s coal industry and the communities that rely on the jobs, taxes and revenues that mining provides,” Sanderson said.

CMA also said the PUC failed to consider the impact the plan will have on communities in northwest Colorado. The plan is expected to displace 3 to 4 million tons of coal, but CMA refutes the idea that the losses would be made up in exporting.

“Without further analysis, the Commission accepted and adopted the results of a study claiming that coal could be marketed elsewhere, even though export markets for Colorado coal have declined substantially in the past five years,” Sanderson said.

“Neither the commission nor the authors of the study were able to provide a shred of support for their conclusions about the marketability of displaced Colorado coal outside of its borders.”

The CMA also wants the court to review the bias and appearance of impropriety of two of the PUC’s commissioners. The CMA reviewed e-mails that chronicled two of the commissioners’ participation in drafting and negotiating the act.

The CMA says those e-mails confirm they negotiated a deal with Xcel representatives to switch the power plants from coal to natural gas behind closed doors.

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