Colorado Mining Association files against PUC, plans more |

Colorado Mining Association files against PUC, plans more

Brian Smith

The fighting might have paused, but the war will rage on.

At least that’s the mindset of Colorado Mining Association President Stuart Sanderson when it comes to the fallout from the passing of Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act.

The CMA took a step that Sanderson hopes will continue the fight against the Colorado Public Utilities Commission’s approval of Xcel Energy’s emission reduction plans to comply with the bill, which includes converting several units of coal-fired power generation on the Front Range to burn natural gas.

Sanderson said the CMA filed a motion Wednesday for two members of the PUC to disqualify themselves from continuing to be involved with the matter.

“This entire proceeding is a sham,” said Sanderson, of the PUC’s several months of considering and later approving Xcel’s plans. “It is fraud with due process violations.”

In mid-December, the PUC approved an Xcel plan that included shutting down seven units of coal-fired generation at three Front Range power plants and re-powering some of them with natural gas.

The plan also calls for the building of new gas-fired power plants to replace some of the lost coal-fired generation and emission control technologies to be installed at two plants including the Hayden Station.

Sanderson said the CMA has filed a motion for reconsideration of the denial of a previous motion to disqualify two PUC members in response to the plan.

“We are basically asking the commissioners to reconsider and to basically disqualify themselves,” he said. “It is a necessary step toward pursuing any further relief.”

The CMA filed a similar motion for the PUC members to disqualify themselves from ruling on the plans in October, but that motion was denied.

The motion cited “participation by the commissioners in helping to draft or develop the language of the legislation,” PUC spokesman Terry Bote said.

Sanderson said the commissioners “at the direction of (Gov. Bill Ritter), negotiated provisions in the bill giving Xcel Energy extraordinary cost recovery.”

The PUC also did so, Sanderson said, knowing the matter would come before them for a decision.

“There is a significant problem here,” Sanderson said. “There is no question that the due process rights of all of the parties with an interest in this, whether they are representing coal mine workers, mining interests or electricity consumers, were violated.”

But, Sanderson doesn’t have much faith the PUC members will recuse themselves and pull Xcel’s plan off the table.

“I think the PUC, at this point, is a lost cause,” he said.

The CMA’s request for the PUC commissioners to dismiss themselves is just one of many steps Sanderson’s organization will take in response to H.B. 10-1365, he said.

“We will explore methods in which we can address and rectify the injustice on the state’s coal mine workers and, of course, the fraud on the rate payers of Colorado,” he said.

Sanderson said he was not prepared to discuss what steps, legal or otherwise, the CMA would take in the future.

“But, you may rest assured that this battle is very far from over,” he said.