Amy Oliver Cooke, Energy, Featured

Getting 'ahead' of the EPA was actually getting backhanded

Advocates for Colorado’s “new energy economy,” including the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), former Governor Bill Ritter, and the anti-fossil fuel lobby, have spent a decade warning Coloradans that we must pass expensive energy mandates, fuel switching, and demand-side management programs in order to “get ahead” of the EPA.

Turns out that was horrible advice, and citizens will pay a hefty price.

Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon goal for Colorado, ratepayers will be punished for previous aggressive action to address global warming.

Tweet this: With new #EPA carbon goals, #CO will be punished for prev action on global warming – #Coleg via@CompleteCO

In comments submitted to the EPA regarding the proposed new regulations, the PUC, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) complain, “it appears that the EPA now proposes to require states that have realized early emission reductions to do more than states that have not. In other words, for states that have done comparatively less, it appears that EPA is expecting them to do less. This raises equity issues, including cost and reliability concerns.” (Full document embedded below.)

The agencies argue that, “Colorado’s IOU [Investor Owned Utilities] ratepayers have already invested more than $4 billion for cleaner electric energy,” more than $2,500 per ratepayer, for which the EPA gives the state zero credit. Tweet this.

The purpose of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) is to reduce states’ carbon emission by 30 percent by 2030. The EPA employs what it calls “cooperative federalism.” It sets the goal and gives each state four “building blocks” including efficiency from coal-fired power plants, fuel switching to natural gas, wind and solar mandates, and demand-side management to reduce the amount of electricity used to meet the goal.

Colorado’s PUC, CDPHE, and CEO question how the EPA determined the state’s carbon goal and whether it is even achievable, “As proposed, the state goal is derived from extremely complex calculations that are based on numerous technical details and long-range projections that confer a high degree of uncertainty in determining whether the state goal is appropriate, realistic and attainable.”

The agencies demand, “EPA’s goal for Colorado must be adjusted.” Tweet this.

Throughout the eight pages of comments they express additional concerns over feasibility, lack of flexibility, possible need for state level legislation, the “tight” timeline, and EPA technical errors.

Then there is a transmission line capacity issue. Current transmission lines cannot support power from both natural gas and wind. The agencies even take a stab at the Endangered Species Act, “recent efforts to expand transmission lines in the West have been limited by Endangered Species Act requirements. Without the proper transmission lines, increased operation of turbines could cause reliability issues.”

Furthermore, the state has no regulatory authority over municipal and electric coops, yet they will be included in Colorado’s overall carbon goal.

One glaring omission in the state’s comments is cost associated with the new regulations. By the state’s own admission, Colorado ratepayers already have paid a hefty price for the “new energy economy.” Under the EPA’s new regulations Colorado ratepayers will have to pay an additional 65 percent more for electricity according to a report from Energy Venture Analysis (EVA).

Colorado residential ratepayers used to enjoy some of the least expensive electricity rates in the nation. Now they suffer some of the most expensive in the Mountain West. Under the new EPA regulations on carbon, “the average annual Colorado household electricity and gas bills will increase by more than $610 in 2020,” writes EVA. Tweet this.

For all of this, what does the EPA expect? According to its own report, the EPA does not anticipate that the proposed rule will result in “notable CO2 emission changes.”

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Colorado EPA comments


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