Colorado utility balks at state oversight

COLORADO - Members of rural electric cooperatives in Colorado don't want the state regulating their power supplier.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission recently heard from co-op members and renewable energy advocates who want state oversight of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

The PUC is considering whether to regulate Tri-State's resource plan, which projects a utility's energy demands and maps out how to meet them. Tri-State submits its plan to the PUC and updates it for information purposes.

Tri-State says it's already governed by federal agencies and the elected boards of the 44 co-ops it serves in four states: Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska.

Clean-energy advocates say Tri-State relies too heavily on coal and that its decisions affect all Coloradans because of climate change and other environmental effects. They point to Gov. Bill Ritter's emphasis on developing renewable energy, Colorado's efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and state laws requiring utilities to get a certain amount of their power from renewable sources.

"PUC regulation is the best way to encourage the Tri-State system to make investments that are consistent with Colorado energy policy," said Bruce Driver, who represented environmentalists in the forum.

For now, the commission is only gathering information on whether it should regulate Tri-State, which is owned by its member cooperatives.

PUC Commission Chairman Ron Binz said regulators will talk about their next step at a meeting later this year, maybe in mid- to late September. If they decide to try to regulate Tri-State, commissioners would convene a formal rulemaking process.


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