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CREA and Ag Groups Strengthen Ties

September 26, 2013

I was glad to participate in a meeting yesterday of the Colorado Ag Council at the headquarters of United Power in Brighton, Colorado. The meeting reenforced what we have known for a long time: our Colorado farmers and ranchers depend on affordable, reliable electricity from Colorado’s electric co-ops and they are the ones most concerned about policies that increase electricity costs.

One of the hot topics for discussion was Senate Bill 13-252 and the activities of the advisory committee appointed by Governor Hickenlooper. Many of the ag producers in attendance expressed their concern that they were not consulted at any time before the introduction of SB 252. Their concerns about the flawed process leading up to the passage of SB 252 were directed to Sen. Gail Schwartz, one of the prime sponsors of the bill, who, to her credit, attended the meeting. Sen. Schwartz responded that she supported the bill because it expanded the RES to include coal mine methane projects, but that the balance of the bill (i.e., the doubling of the RES for co-ops) came from the Governor’s office. (Of course, CREA supported Sen. Schwartz’ coal mine methane bill during the 2012 session, but it was killed by the environmental lobby.)

With respect to the advisory committee, it will soon wrap up its work with a report that will not make any consensus recommendations for changes to SB 252. The committee agreed that the 20% by 2020 RES could be achieved if co-ops could continue to use RECs to comply, and it also agreed that the co-ops should determine how to calculate the 2% rate cap “offramp” that is contained in SB 252. But as for specific amendments to SB 252, while some supported an extension of the 2020 deadline and/or the inclusion of large hydropower resources, there was no consensus on those points.

Regardless of what happened during the 2013 legislative session and the subsequent advisory committee process, hopefully there will be a renewed sense of cooperation and inclusiveness during the 2014 session when it comes to the consideration of energy policies that impact rural Colorado. Make no mistake, Colorado’s electric co-ops have supported and continue to support renewable energy and energy efficiency. But we also support our farmers and ranchers, many of whom are having a hard enough time making ends meet without higher power bills. If rural interests are included in future discussions, we can help shape energy policy in a way that makes sense for all of Colorado.

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