The Colorado Public Utilities Commission recently made one of its last rulings on a plan many Northwest Colorado residents think could significantly harm the local coal industry.
The PUC deliberated and denied Wednesday a motion for reconsideration to change Xcel Energy’s plans to comply with Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act.
The Colorado Mining Association and the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado filed the motion.
It requested the commission revisit and change Xcel’s plans which calls for shutting down several coal-fired power plant units and repowering them with natural gas, building a new gas power plant, and installing emission control technologies for other plants.
The motion’s denial, in essence, signaled the end of several months of PUC proceedings on the plans.
“It’s been an uphill battle,” Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said. “It was a battle from the start we didn’t know we could win or not.
“This does look like the end of it.”
PUC spokesman Terry Bote said the PUC left most of Xcel’s plan intact after reviewing motions for reconsideration from the mining association, AGNC, Colorado Independent Energy Association, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, and Peabody Energy Corporation, among others.
“(The PUC) did grant reconsideration of some things I would characterize as minor issues, such as timing and sequencing of how all of this will take place,” he said.
Bote said the PUC reviewed and voted on each request for reconsideration individually in a proceeding that lasted several hours.
“Most, if not all of the issues that were raised by the CMA and AGNC and Peabody surrounded the issue of due process and how those parties felt their due process rights had been denied,” he said. “The least they were seeking was dismissal of the entire decision.
“The commission did not agree with those arguments and did not grant any of those requests.”
Mining association president Stuart Sanderson had few words when asked about the PUC’s denial.
“Obviously the Public Utilities Commission has conducted a proceeding that is a sham and, as we were not satisfied with the initial decision, we were not satisfied with their decisions on the denial of the motions for rehearing and reconsideration,” he said. “We are obviously re-examining our next steps.”
Xcel also filed a motion for reconsideration to address “minor issues,” which the PUC ruled on, spokesman Mark Stutz said.
“We had raised some minor issues related to … retirement dates for some of the units and I will tell you that we were given some flexibility on those,” he said. “That’s more of a procedural thing.”
Stutz said Xcel generally agrees with the rulings.
“There were no really major issues that would cause us to change our minds about moving forward with the plan,” he said.
Mathers said there might be some hope for the future of state energy and rate regulation, however.
“There are some bills being introduced to maybe take parts of that out,” he said of H.B. 10-1365. “They would maybe give the PUC, take them back to what they used to do — to just administer and oversee the rates to the consumers, like a consumer protection agency.
“Make them start doing that and quit involving so much of this new energy into that. They need to get back to what they have always done, which is rates.”
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