DENVER–Environmental groups and the Polis administration suffered a rare setback last month in a hearing before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
In the midst of proceedings involving Xcel Energy and its Clean Energy Plan, Western Resource Advocates (WRA)—a fringe environmental advocacy organization opposed to energy derived from fossil fuels—and the Colorado Energy Office, an agency within the Polis administration, attempted to file a “Joint Motion to Take Administrative Notice of Climate Change, its Causes and its Likely Consequences.”
Administrative notice is a procedure by which agencies rule that a fact or body of law is not subject to debate or contrary evidence. In other words, environmental activists from the non-profit and the Polis energy office attempted to sidestep administrative due process in order to set the stage for even more environmental regulations.
Ultimately, the PUC ruled against granting the motion 3-0 in a hearing on September 22 and finalized its decision at the beginning of this month.
In support of the motion, WRA and the Clean Energy Office filed over 2,000 pages of policy recommendations and studies, many of which were not relevant to the matter before the commission, and called for policies not supported by the Colorado legislature or even Governor Polis himself.
For example, many of the filings called for a stand-alone “cap-and-trade” program. Such a program was never given the go ahead by the legislature, and Governor Polis has issued an executive order specifically taking a public position against the establishment of such a program.
House Bill 19-1261, which was passed by the legislature in 2019, provides the basis for these PUC hearings. The law establishes economy wide greenhouse gas emission reduction goals for the State of Colorado of 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, relative to 2005 levels.
In order to comply with these objectives, utilities companies are required to submit a Clean Energy Plan (CEP) to the PUC for approval. To receive approval, a utility company would have to show that a plan would achieve a reduction in carbon emissions associated with its electricity sales by 80 percent relative to 2005 levels by 2030 and make progress toward achieving one hundred percent clean energy by 2050.
Xcel Energy, the largest energy provider in the state, was one of the first utilities to produce an ambitious Clean Energy Plan. The plan is slated to reduce Xcel’s carbon emissions by up to 85% by 2030, but at a cost of $8 billion to be borne by energy consumers, according to the Colorado Sun. The plan will also shut down all of Xcel’s coal power plants by 2040.
Other groups that supported WRA’s motion were Conservation Coalition, Colorado Renewable Energy Association, Interwest, and Vote Solar.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) opposed the motion on the grounds that it was an inappropriate use of administrative notice.
The County of Pueblo, the City of Pueblo, and the Pueblo Board of Water Works each opposed the motion arguing that it would create unnecessary confusion for those involved in the matter and delays to the proceedings.
The opposition’s point of view could be summed up by Pueblo County’s response to the motion.
“It is not appropriate to now use administrative notice as an end run around the General Assembly and the Governor to essentially create a rebuttable presumption for early closure of Comanche 3 and gas generation facilities on the [Public Service Company] system,” the response said.
They also questioned the motivations of the groups who filed the motion.
“The hyperbole in the Motion appears to create a false dichotomy, perhaps for use in fundraising solicitations—if an intervenor questions the ‘facts’, they are against taking aggressive steps to reduce emissions and deal with climate change,” the response continues.
“At this phase of the proceeding, we also agree with parties that the process of administrative notice proposed by movants creates confusion and inefficiencies,” the commission said in its decision.
Future Public Comment Hearings
Those interested in the developments of Xcel’s Clean Energy Plan at the PUC will have three more opportunities to provide public comments:
- Tuesday, October 26, 4pm – 6pm at Moffat County High School, 900 Finley Lane, Craig, Colorado 81625
- Thursday, October 28, 4pm – 6pm at El Pueblo History Museum – the Atrium, 301 N. Union Avenue, Pueblo, Colorado 81003
- Thursday, December 2, 4pm – 7pm at a remote hearing hosted by the Public Utilities Commission.
Written comments can be submitted at any time at https://puc.colorado.gov/puccomments under Proceeding number 21A-0141E.
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