Colorado Senate Democrats introduced Wednesday a bill that would require rural electricity cooperatives like Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, operator of Craig Station pictured here, to increase renewable energy mandates from 10 to 25 percent by 2020. Representatives with the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado estimate Tri-State's cost to meet that requirement at $2.5 billion to $4.1 billion.

Photo by Joe Moylan

Colorado Senate Democrats introduced Wednesday a bill that would require rural electricity cooperatives like Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, operator of Craig Station pictured here, to increase renewable energy mandates from 10 to 25 percent by 2020. Representatives with the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado estimate Tri-State's cost to meet that requirement at $2.5 billion to $4.1 billion.

Legislative storm on the horizon

Colorado Dems introduce bill that could hurt Tri-State, rural energy co-ops

Quotable...

“If I get the chance to say nothing else, I’m going to tell Gov. (John) Hickenlooper that if he signs this ... the state won’t be getting any more money from Northwest Colorado.”

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers about a new bill that could require electricity cooperatives to increase renewable energy mandates from 10 to 25 percent by 2020.

The Moffat County Commission is traveling Monday to Denver to testify at the state Capitol against a bill local officials are comparing to the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act of 2010.

Senate Bill 13-252 was introduced Wednesday by Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Senate Majority Whip Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village.

The measure aims to increase renewable energy mandates on rural Colorado electricity cooperatives from 10 to 25 percent by 2020.

In 2007, Colorado’s electric co-ops worked with Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration to negotiate the current 10 percent renewable energy mandate, according to information released by Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association in Westminster. Colorado’s cooperatives were directed to meet the 10 percent mandate by 2020.

The Moffat County Commission first learned about the new bill Friday during a conference call with lobbyists for the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.

If passed in its current form by the Senate and the House of Representatives, Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado representatives told the commission it would cost cooperatives like Tri-State $2.5 billion to $4.1 billion to meet the new requirement, and those costs would be passed on to Tri-State’s Colorado customers.

Although the hit to Tri-State, which operates Craig Station and Trapper Mine, could be staggering, local officials criticized the bill for another reason, saying Friday that the new measure stinks like House Bill 10-1365, the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers condemned Morse and Schwartz for waiting until Day 85 of the Colorado General Assembly’s 120-day session to introduce the bill.

“This bill was written by Front Range legislators, introduced at the last minute and is designed to hurt rural Colorado,” Mathers said. “It reminds me a lot of what they did to sneak (HB 10-)1365 through the Legislature.”

SB 13-252 was assigned to the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee and already has been scheduled for a hearing Monday.

Mathers and Moffat County Commissioners Chuck Grobe and John Kinkaid are driving to Denver to testify against it. Mathers expects they’ll each receive one minute to say their peace.

“If I get the chance to say nothing else, I’m going to tell Gov. (John) Hickenlooper that if he signs this ... the state won’t be getting any more money from Northwest Colorado,” Mathers said.

In an effort to draw bipartisan support, Morse and Schwartz drafted language to expand the definition of “eligible energy resources” to include coal mine methane gas.

District 8 Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey, twice has carried legislation to add coal mine methane to Colorado’s renewable energy portfolio, once last year while representing House District 57 and again this year.

On both occasions, Baumgardner’s bill was killed in committee.

“I’m a ‘no’ for several reasons, but the biggest one is rural cooperatives can’t provide that much renewable energy without purchasing it from outside the state,” Baumgardner said. “I can’t support a measure that will send money out of the state to provide Coloradans with electricity.”

Baumgardner also slammed the bill because, like HB 10-1365, the deal was cut by Xcel Energy, environmental organizations and Hickenlooper’s energy office.

“Conveniently not one representative from rural Colorado’s energy industry was invited to the table for the discussions,” Baumgardner said.

SB 13-252 has eight sponsors in the Senate and 13 sponsors in the House. Not one of those sponsors is a Republican, Baumgardner said.

“If the bill stays in its current form, it’s going to come down to a party-line vote,” he said.

Calls to Sens. Morse and Schwartz were not returned by press time.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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