Energy, Sean Paige

Why Governor Hickenlooper should veto Senate Bill 252

The Rural Rate Hike Express, otherwise known as SB-252, just sped through the Statehouse and is bearing down on Coloradans at breakneck speed. Our best hope now is that Gov. John Hickenlooper, recognizing the harm this bill will do the state’s fragile economy, will pull out his veto pen just in the nick of time.

Hickenlooper came to office as a business-friendly centrist, whose personal experience creating jobs would temper the economy-stunting extremism for which his party is sometimes known. But that reputation could take a hit if he won’t veto a law that will impose heavy new burdens on rural power providers and their 1.5 million customers.

Meeting the “green energy” mandates imposed by SB-252 could cost nonprofit rural co-ops an estimated $4 billion. Those costs are real, and they’ll be passed on to energy consumers one way or another. Trying to mask them with gimmicky rate “caps” will only encourage cost-shifting and dishonest accounting. Unnecessarily raising utility rates now, when the state and national economy are stuck in a prolonged swoon, can’t do anything but damage the state’s business climate and competitiveness.

Surely the governor must see that.

Not just struggling families, but farmers, ranchers and small businesses will be shouldering unnecessary new burdens – burdens largely imposed by urban lawmakers whose constituents are immune from the impacts. Pueblo’s newspaper may have put it best when it called these mandates a “dagger” aimed at rural Colorado. Only Gov. Hickenlooper can stop the blade from striking home.

From where does this push for higher utility bills come? From urban lawmakers, mostly, like Sen. President John Morse of Colorado Springs, whose constituents won’t have to pay a penny of the costs. It also comes from organized green extremists, who take it as an article of faith that making Coloradans pay a premium for renewables will “save the planet” from climate change. Finally, a growing number of not-ready-for-primetime companies, which depend for their survival on subsidies and mandates, stand to profit from the new rules.

This is the coalition that supports piling even more mandates on top of those already approved in Colorado. And unless average energy consumers wake-up and get involved, they’ll continue to be out-maneuvered and out-muscled in the political arena. SB-252 was written behind closed doors, by special interests and chummy legislators, and rushed forward in the waning days of the session, with no input from co-ops or their customers. No cost-benefit analysis was done. The benchmarks are arbitrarily chosen, with no consideration to cost or consequences.

Virtually every major paper in Colorado has condemned SB-252 as too rushed or ill-considered. Yet the “experts” in Denver haven’t been dissuaded. What matters most to them, apparently, is winning their Climate Crusader merit badges.

Why should Coloradans not served by co-ops care? Because backers of such mandates never know when to stop. Because they are driven by feel-good ideology, not bottom-line practicality, anything goes. If we give them another inch, they’ll take another mile. Approval of SB-252 will only whet their appetites for more.

Evidence is everywhere that such mandates don’t make sense.

More than half the states that adopted renewable mandates are now taking a second look, because such plans have foundations built on shifting sands. Simplistic assumptions and preliminary cost estimates almost always are wrong. California’s Little Hoover commission recently warned of looming energy shortages and “chaos” in that state, which was an early and enthusiastic adopter of this (and every other) regulatory fad. And Europe was recently called a “green energy basket case” by none other than The Washington Post, no right-wing mouthpiece, in an editorial highlighting the mess that’s been made by its own misadventures with mandates.

There’s still time to derail the Rural Rate Hike Express. But that will require that alert, educated and active energy consumers write or call (303) 866-2471) the governor and tell him to veto this bill.

Sean Paige is acting Colorado state director for Americans for Prosperity and former editorial page editor at the Colorado Springs Gazette.  This op-ed originally appeared in MonkeyWrenchingAmerica.com

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