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The board of directors of Holy Cross Energy (pdf), a rural electric cooperative with more than 40,000 members between Vail and Aspen, has officially...
Rural electric co-ops that gamble on low-cost coal while largely keeping their member-owners in the dark about future financial risks may be playing with federal regulatory fire in the form of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, according to an attorney for the renewable-energy sector. Ron Lehr, attorney for Interwest Energy Alliance and former chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), said board members of rural electric co-ops need to go to great lengths to divulge to their members the potential risks of investing in coal-fired power plants with a possible federal carbon tax or cap-and-trade policy looming.
Despite significant strides in the renewable energy arena, Holy Cross Energy on Colorado’s Western Slope is not immune to the wave of environmental activism sweeping rural electric co-ops across the state.
One of the ironies of the controversy over proposed Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) oversight of the state’s second largest utility, Tri-State, is that the rural electric co-op arguably most in need of increased state supervision, the IREA, would be unaffected. Eighteen of the state’s 22 rural electric co-ops (REAs) would be impacted by PUC approval of Tri-State’s integrated resource plans — annual documents that detail the utility’s energy loads — but the IREA (Intermountain Rural Electric Association) and three other co-ops don’t get their power from Tri-State.
The volatility of natural gas prices causing a major production downturn on Colorado’s Western Slope is exactly why William Schroeder Jr. of the Intermountain Rural Electric Association says the state’s largest co-op spent $366 million on a new coal-fired power plant.