HB 1365 Update: Xcel Remains Undecided; Coal Interests Begin To Litigate, Promise More
- Regarding HB 1365 (a.k.a. the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act), the big news is that Xcel has yet to make up its mind. As I noted here, the Minneapolis-based utility has the authority under HB 1365 to veto the fuel switching implementation plan chosen by the PUC on December 10. So far, Xcel has kept mum on its intentions, save for a request to clarify the PUC’s written decision. In particular, the utility asked the PUC what sort of flexibility it has in scheduling the retirement of the 152 megawatt Cherokee 3 coal fired power plant in Adams County north of Denver. If Xcel were to veto the PUC’s preferred plan, then HB 1365 and its attendant proceedings would have been for naught.
- At the conclusion of HB 1365 hearings before the PUC, I predicted confidently that coal interests would litigate whatever was decided. As well they should: HB 1365 was proposed by coal’s competitors, in order to tilt the electricity market away from coal, and towards themselves. In light of the fact that coal’s competitors chose to compete in the legal arena, rather than the market, coal interests in Colorado have every right to defend themselves using the legal process. Here’s a litigation roundup.
- On December 13, the Colorado Mining Association (CMA) filed a motion to reopen the HB 1365 proceedings in order to commit to the record the EPA’s recent decision to kick the can further down the road when it comes to tightening the federal ozone standard. As I explain here, the case for HB 1365 was undercut by the EPA’s decision to delay an ozone ruling. The legislation was advertised by its proponents as a cost-effective response to a raft of pending federal air quality regulations. As the Independence Institute’s Amy Oliver Cooke and I explained here, the Ritter administration grossly overstated the threat of a federal regulatory crackdown—instead of 11 pending rules, as was claimed by administration officials, there were in fact two. Now there is only one, thanks to the EPA’s decision to delay an ozone ruling.
- On December 22, the CMA appealed the PUC’s ruling on a motion to disqualify two of the three PUC commissioners (Chairman Ron Binz and Commissioner Matt Baker) for having negotiated HB 1365. Specifically, the CMA contends that the two commissioners’ involvement in the drafting of legislation carries the appearance of impropriety because they then adjudicated the implementation of the law. The CMA originally filed a motion to disqualify Commissioners Binz and Baker late last September, and the PUC denied the motion in late October, but it waited until mid-December to issue a written order of its decision.
- In an interview last week with Brian Smith of the Craig Daily Press, CMA President Stuart Sanderson promised more lawsuits.
William Yeatman is an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute