On April 3, a bill was introduced in the Colorado Senate aimed at Tri-State and its member co-ops which would require Tri-State to generate 25 percent of the power it sells to its Colorado members from renewable resources by 2020.
The measure would essentially replace the current renewable energy obligation of 10 percent by 2020, which was passed in the Colorado Legislature with support by Tri-State in 2007 – and which the association is on track to meet.
If enacted as written, the proposed legislation could potentially cost Tri-State and its members up to $4 billion over the next 20 years, which is one of several reasons Tri-State and the Colorado Rural Electric Association have engaged resources to oppose it.
“Fundamentally, the manner in which this bill was hastily written and introduced represents a flawed process,” said Tri-State executive vice president and general manager Ken Anderson. “Despite our willingness to do so, we, nor any other rural Colorado constituents who will be deeply impacted by this mandate, were not provided the opportunity to provide any input. It is irresponsible – not to mention probably unachievable – and could cost Colorado electric cooperatives and their member-owners billions of dollars.”
After a Senate committee’s initial hearing on April 8, which involved seven hours of testimony, the bill passed by a 3-2 vote along party lines.
“We are receiving significant support from both rural and urban interests, from the state chamber of commerce to agricultural producers to our labor unions. Together we are sending a strong message to legislators and the governor to do the right thing by rural Colorado,” said Dave Lock, Tri-State’s senior manager of government relations.
Part of that pressure includes Tri-State’s communications and public affairs team working, with strong support from its members and partner organizations, to help spread the message in an effort to raise public awareness and action. As a result of those activities, The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Pueblo Chieftain have all quickly weighed in with strongly worded editorials opposing the bill.
The bill is currently on the Senate floor for debate. If it passes the Senate, it would transfer to the Colorado House of Representatives, where it again would receive a committee hearing, then be debated on the House floor. If the bill gets that far and passes the House, it would go to Gov. Hickenlooper for his signature; or, he could veto it. The process is expected to take at least two weeks, perhaps longer. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 9.
The Rural Economic Action Alliance (REA-A), which is supported by Tri-State and CREA, is currently running Keep Electricity Affordable radio commercials and online ads across Colorado, along with activating its 20,000 plus grassroots supporters. Electric cooperative advocates are encouraged to support the Keep Electricity Affordable initiative as well as using CREA’s Take Action Network.