This past week marked the inaugural meeting of the Governor's task force that will monitor the implementation of SB13-252, the renewable energy mandate placed on rural electric coops in the 2013 legislative session. A significant opportunity to bring a renaissance to rural Colorado – masquerading as a 'War on Rural Colorado'. A fake war. An imagined war whose only casualties will be those who continue to bet on 19th century technology and refuse to adapt to a new world. A world that is moving from centralization to de-centralization of energy generation. An effort led by the United States Department of Defense, and ironically piloted right here in Colorado.
I've written before on the folly of this Kansas project. A project that has the effect of Tri-State committing their balance sheet – which is by default the balance sheet of every rural cooperative in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico – to a plant in Kansas. In a territory not served by Tri-State. A project that will chain rural electric members to last-centuries technology and its ever-increasing costs for decades. A project that will displace the vast opportunities awaiting rural Colorado communities.
It's no secret that Tri-State has spent tens of millions of dollars since 2006 to see this plant become a reality. In the process they now own the water rights to over 37,000 acres of prime farmland below John Martin reservoir for the sole purpose of producing energy via coal and nuclear plants. As a resident of the Tri-State territory from a multi-generational farm family, there are few things that are more repulsive to my soul than the drying up of some of the most productive farm land in the state for the purposes of electrical generation. It is the worst of both worlds: ending the productivity from the land and the resultant local economic activity – to build a 19th century generation asset that could be easily displaced by 21st century technology that does not place additional demands on our agricultural water.
While the SB-252 Implementation Task Force begins their work on a roadmap to reach their now-mandated goal, Tri-State is busy behind the scenes in Washington trying to amend federal law so the proposed and ill-fated Holcomb coal plant can be built. They are hard at work getting the House to undo the recent decision in the federal courts regarding the proposed Holcomb coal plant. They are attempting to modify Section 5206 of the Farm Bill (HR 2642). This proposed change is directly targeted at the RUS NEPA opinion, and would let Tri-State/Sunflower move ahead with Holcomb without any NEPA review by RUS. This provision would apply more broadly as well.
Here are their proposed changes:
Certain Federal actions not to be considered major:
In the case of a loan, loan guarantee, or grant program in the rural development mission area of the Department of Agriculture, an action of the Secretary before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act that does not involve the provision by the Department of Agriculture of Federal dollars or a Federal loan guarantee, including-
(1) the approval by the Department of Agriculture of the decision of a borrower to commence a privately funded activity;
(2) a lien accommodation or subordination;
(3) a debt settlement or restructuring; or
(4) the restructuring of a business entity by a borrower,shall not be considered a major Federal action.
Call the offices of Senators Bennet and Udall and the Congressional offices of Gardner and Tipton. Tell them to side with rural jobs and to reject the proposed changes to Sec. 5206 in Conference. We don't need a multi-billion dollar investment in 19th century technology in an adjoining state. Our focus should be squarely on rural Colorado – and the significant opportunities for the rural areas that is being masqueraded as a 'war'. A fake war whose only victims will be those who choose to stay wedded to last centuries mindset.