Craig If anger were a renewable energy source, Moffat County might already meet the conditions of the highly controversial Senate Bill 252, which set renewable energy standards for rural Colorado.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law June 5.
Sponsored by Democrat Senate President John Morse and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, the bill requires rural electric co-ops throughout the state to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. That represents a 100 percent increase over the previously required 10 percent.
SB 252 has been widely panned in Moffat County, and many people feel betrayed and forgotten by lawmakers whom they feel did not consider any input from rural stakeholders in their decision.
“The co-ops were not consulted on the executive order and the advisory committee,” said Lee Boughey, senior manager of corporate communications and public affairs at Tri-State Generation and Transmission, in a statement. “The legislature's failure to engage cooperatives and its rushed process resulted in a bill that was significantly flawed.”
Detractors point to the advisory board created for the director of the Colorado Energy Office that Gov. Hickenlooper created alongside the bill to measure the bill’s effectiveness.
According to the governor, the bill was far from perfect and some concerns were not given “due consideration” before it was finalized, specifically how consumers will be protected from rising energy prices and whether or not it is even possible to meet the time frame for compliance.
“Oh yeah, we’re very disappointed with the governor’s decision,” Boughey said. “He chose to sign now and fix it later. That seems like a backwards way to create public policy.”
The bill assigns a rate cap of 2 percent on the financial fallout for customers, but local co-ops and power companies worry that it will be impossible to meet that model and that much more of the cost will end up being passed on to consumers.
There’s also the very real concern over the loss of jobs due to the new stipulations, but not everyone agrees.
Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush (D) representing Routt and Eagle counties claims that jobs will be created in the growing green energy sector and in construction jobs retrofitting existing plants.
“It’s not really going to happen that way,” said Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers. “They want to increase green energy by 20 percent — well that’s 20 percent less coal that needs to be burned and 20 percent less coal that needs to be mined. Everything coming down the pipeline seems to hit either the power plant or the mines, and that’s what grows Craig. We don’t want people to have to move a way to find jobs.”
Organizations supporting the energy industry across Colorado have spoken out vehemently against the passing of SB 252 and the disconnect between lawmakers and citizens.
“We are… disappointed in the influence of urban, metro Denver over legislation that so deeply impacts rural and outlying areas,” the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado said in a statement. “We hope that our urban legislators will take the time to come out here and see how their decisions affect us and that they will come to understand the impact of those decisions, as well as the many benefits rural Coloradoans provide for the state.”
Tom Mathers put it more bluntly: “Hickenlooper, well, he’s not the governor of Colorado, he’s the mayor of Denver.”