Now that they have regained total control of the State Capitol, Democrat leaders in the legislature just cannot resist kicking rural Colorado every time they get a chance.
It was necessary, they told us, for rural Coloradans — and gun owners everywhere — to compromise our lifestyle and our freedom as part of their irrational quest to make us safer by passing laws that will continue to be ignored by cold-blooded killers like James Holmes, Adam Lanza and the Boston bombers.
Now, Democrats are feeding their green-energy fetish by imposing drastically higher energy costs — 15 to 20 percent higher — on rural families, schools and the farms and ranches that put food on their dining room tables.
This is the price, they have determined, that we must pay to “save the planet” from global warming.
Senate Bill 252, which was introduced barely a month before the legislature mercifully adjourns, would require rural electric associations (REAs) to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from “renewable” sources in just the next six years. Rural cooperatives say the change will cost the average consumer about $400 a year.
In 2004, voters required most Colorado utilities to obtain at least 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020; REAs were added, with their support, in 2007. The 16-year implementation horizon recognized that utilities cannot simply flip a switch on solar, wind and other renewable sources. Building wind and solar “farms” takes time. Building transmission lines also takes time — even longer when the very environmentalists who lobby for renewable energy file lawsuits to block construction of transmission lines.
So, just as REAs are preparing to meet the 10 percent standard, sponsors of this bill more than double the requirement without allowing any additional time for implementation.
All of this is terribly wasteful. REAs get their power from Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which has built enough generation facilities to meet its members’ needs. Under this bill, Tri-State will have to build or buy renewable resources that it doesn’t need, while idling those that it’s already built. Those costs must be passed along to customers.
Sponsors of this bill — all Democrats, mostly from metro areas — didn’t bother to consult with REAs when crafting this plan. Instead, they arrogantly adopted a “we know better than you do” attitude, deferred to the green lobby, and chose to cram it down the throat of rural Colorado.
That’s ironic because Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, helped craft legislation that increased its own renewable mandate to 30 percent.
The difference between Xcel and the REAs is that the rural cooperatives are owned and governed by their customers. That’s a very effective system of checks and balances — far better than being governed by legislators who know little about REAs and even less about rural communities.
Advocates often tout renewable energy as an economic boost to rural Colorado. The fact is that wind farms provide a short-term boost during construction and a paycheck to a small handful of landowners — while increasing costs to everyone else.
Rural schools, too, will also suffer from higher energy costs. Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) calculated the cost to his hometown school at $30,000 a year. Schools served by REAs will pay a combined $1 million or more annually — at a time when Democrats in the legislature profess concern for school funding.
The bill passed the Senate by a mere one vote margin as two Democrats — Mary Hodge of Brighton and Lois Tochtrop of Thornton – joined Republicans in voting no. Sadly, several rural Democrats — Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass Vilalge), Rep. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon), Rep. Mike McLachlan (D-Durango) and Rep. Ed Vigil (D-Fort Garland) — are already pledged as co-sponsors.
Perhaps Democrat leaders in Denver have concluded that they can write off rural Colorado and the voters who live here. This bill certainly gives us one more reason to think so.
Former Colorado treasurer and senate majority leader Mark Hillman farms near Burlington. This op-ed originally appeared in the Sterling Journal-Advocate. For more info, go to MarkHillman.com.