LPEA needs leaders with vision, expertise

We live in exciting times. Just how exciting? Check this out.

What was a fairly sedate affair historically – the La Plata Electric Association annual board of director’s election – has transformed into a proxy vote for the community’s vision of 21st-century energy and economic development.

It is also the time of year when our very own oil and gas front woman, Christi Zeller of the La Plata County Energy Council, becomes surprisingly self-destructive.

It is impossible to talk about this election without first talking about the convulsions wracking the energy industry these days.

Few industry analysts would suggest that our future energy infrastructure will closely resemble today’s, which relies on massive, polluting power plants.

As the economic and environmental downsides of our current system become increasingly clear, technological innovation is improving the reliability and cost-competitiveness of renewable and distributed energy sources. Evidence? This past month, Spain produced 67 percent of the nation’s energy from carbon-free sources (47 percent if you leave out nuclear power).

To help guide our electric cooperative through these tectonic industry shifts, we need board members who posses both good business sense and deep energy industry insight.

Through that lens, in this election three frontrunners quickly emerge: Britt Bassett, Heather Erb and Gregg Dubit. All three combine professional expertise and business savvy with years of experience in the energy sector.

Their opponents, all recognizable and respected local business owners, appear to lack industry knowledge and haven’t, to my understanding, attended an LPEA board meeting in years. Their lack of energy expertise during a moment of intense industry transformation is worrisome.

Now let’s do a little thought experiment. If you were opposed to modernizing our electric grid because your livelihood hinged on communities’ continued dependence on oil and gas drilling, what would you do given a slate of respectable but not particularly strong candidates?

Hard to imagine, but funny that this year Ms. Zeller lawyered up and challenged the eligibility of Britt Bassett and Gregg Dubit’s candidacies. If you can’t beat ’em, destroy ’em through nasty political tricks.

Last year, Ms. Zeller penned an op-ed to discredit an incumbent she disliked. This year she is wasting cooperative members’ money on flimsy legal challenges to some of the strongest board candidates we’ve seen in years. This is what we can expect from a Leadership La Plata alum and the executive director of an organization working to strengthen relations between fossil fuel companies and the community?

I’ve already let my candidate preferences be known, and my appeal to others is simply this: Let’s elect candidates who know something about business and energy, because both attributes will be needed to help steer our cooperative on a safe and fiscally responsible path into the future.

This content first published in The Durango Herald’s Thinking Green Column here.

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