State lawmakers are calling for Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Southwest Colorado’s wholesale electricity supplier, to delay a vote on pursuing federal regulations of electrical rates because the new rules could undermine the state’s ability to oversee carbon-cutting efforts.
Tri-State’s CEO Duane Highley has said the wholesaler is interested in federal oversight of rates because it would provide a single set of rules to abide by rather than the inconsistent regulations that arise from working across multiple states. Tri-State operates in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska and Wyoming.
Tri-State’s board is expected to vote on whether to pursue federal regulations this month.
State lawmakers wrote a letter July 3 to Tri-State chiding the co-op for not disclosing its plans while it was in negotiations with the state about new oversight rules. The letter was signed by Colorado’s Senate president, speaker of the house and five other lawmakers.
Colorado is requiring Tri-State to submit plans for future electrical generation. Those plans must help the state meet its goals of cutting carbon 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 from 2005 statewide pollution levels to help address climate change.
The newly negotiated state rules allow the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to oversee Tri-State’s future plans for electricity generation, also called resource planning, to help ensure carbon-cutting goals are met.
Splitting the oversight of electrical rates and plans for future electricity generation between the state and federal government could make it harder to hold Tri-State accountable, green energy advocates previously told The Durango Herald.
“Given the connection between rates and resource planning, we are concerned that Tri-State was not more transparent about the possibility of transition to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) during this negotiation,” the letter from lawmakers says.
The letter goes on to say lawmakers need to better understand how federal oversight may prevent agencies such as the PUC and state Legislature from “ensuring Coloradans pay just, reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates.”
Tri-State does not expect federal regulation of rates would affect state oversight, Highley said in a July 3 letter to lawmakers.
He also informed lawmakers of Tri-State’s new commitment to renewable energy.
“While this does not fit the false narrative portrayed by some that Tri-State is unwilling to transition, we now have an aggressive directive to increase renewables and reduce carbon dioxide emissions while striving to lower the association’s wholesale rate,” he said, in the letter. “This directive does not sit well with those who have hoped to profit off their narrative being true.”