Tri-State attempts to evade PUC oversight for facility planning and state law requiring reduction of GHGs by 90% by 2050

Colorado Sun, August 2019 excerpt

The FERC bid also came as Colorado adopted laws giving the PUC more oversight of Tri-State’s facility planning and also requiring utilities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 90% from 2005 levels by 2050. Tri-State gets almost half its electricity by burning coal.

“The PUC wants to make sure that Tri-State isn’t trying to go around those state efforts,” Kutzer said.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association gets about half the electricity it generates from coal-burning plants. The company expects to close the coal-fired Nucla Station as soon as its on-site fuel supply is spent, likely in early 2020. The massive power company also plans to retire a coal-fired electric generation unit at Craig Station by the end of 2025. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Tri-State operates in Nebraska, Wyoming and New Mexico, as well as Colorado, and as regulatory regimes change in each state, it made sense to seek uniform rate regulation under FERC, the utility said.

This would allow for “rate certainty and predictability going forward,” according to Boughey.

While rates and contract disputes, such as the one with DMEA, would move to the FERC, Tri-State said it would still be under state jurisdiction for the resource planning and pollution-reduction goals.

“We are committed to working with the governor, the legislature and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to implement the state’s energy goals, including complying with Colorado’s carbon-reduction rules and working with the commission and other stakeholders through the new resource planning process for Tri-State,” Boughey said.

Nevertheless, the PUC in its protest raised questions of whether the split oversight will create problems. “There are jurisdictional issues created if the state has jurisdiction over resource plans, which Tri-State admits, and the FERC has jurisdiction over rates,” the filing said. “Will FERC honor state decisions?”

To be eligible for FERC oversight Tri-State must add a new member that is not a rural cooperative. The PUC filing said that Tri-State has never named the new member.

In the filing it said that the PUC will discuss at its Aug. 21 meeting whether the commission must approve that new member.

The protest also said that Tri-State’s long-term contracts, which limit co-ops to generating no more than 5% of their own electricity, and the association’s opposition to co-ops buying local renewable energy under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act is inconsistent with FERC policies.

The PUC said considering the “significant procedural, legal and jurisdiction flaws” in Tri-State’s application, it should be dismissed by the FERC.