This blog series covers the monthly La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) Board of Directors meetings. We’re tracking the board for transparency and accountability, as well as to stay current on their renewable energy initiatives. Find past and future spotlights here.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year at LPEA as they navigate the changing energy industry. If you’re anything like us, all the rulemakings and lawsuits and Board resolutions can start to blur into one mass. That’s why, for this month’s Spotlight, we’re celebrating a year of progress towards responsible and affordable power by recapping everything that’s happened this year:
The LPEA Board UNANIMOUSLY voted on a new resolution to decrease LPEA’s carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 while keeping rates below 70% of other electric co-ops in the state.
LPEA also filed to intervene on behalf of Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) in their complaint against Tri-State. LPEA has an interest in the case to ensure that Tri-State was treating all member co-ops fairly.
In February LPEA took steps to increase transparency by archiving their Board meeting videos on their site and by disclosing contributions and expenditures to outside organizations. They also allocated an inline budget item to 4CORE for programs like increased energy efficiency services to ease the pressure on low-income families.
Tri-State rolls out expensive, pointed ad campaigns aimed at convincing members to blindly trust them, despite their high rates, risky debts, restrictive contracts, and shoddy environmental track record. Ironically, Tri-State also announces that co-ops will not be allowed to attend Tri-State’s annual meeting.
Congress begins an investigation into Tri-State’s role in a secret group aimed at rolling back the Clean Air Act, making us wonder: how does Tri-State’s efforts to raze the Clean Air Act reflect LPEA’s values of increasing sustainability while keeping costs low?
LPEA’s Power Supply Committee also finished their work and gave recommendations in April. The consultants work showed that LPEA could save money by buying power on the open market, and there would be no loss in reliability if we switched providers.
LPEA’s Board Elections conclude! Two incumbent, Dan Huntington and Jack Turner, and two new Directors, Joe Lewandowski and Holly Metzler, are elected to the Board.
The Colorado legislative session also adjourns after passing a flurry of energy bills to propel Colorado towards a responsible energy future.
Tri-State first announces that they are seeking federal regulation under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as opposed to current state regulation under the Colorado Public Utility Commission (PUC). They push a rushed timeline that doesn’t give co-ops time to understand the implications or rationale of federal regulation, who would have regulatory authority, or what would happen in the event of a contract buyout.
LPEA, DMEA, and United Power all sign a letter asking Tri-State to pause the FERC vote, and San Miguel Power Association (SMPA) send their own letter asking for a delay.
Tri-State’s FERC application becomes contentious: the Tri-State Board votes for FERC regulation, with only LPEA and a small handful of others voting no.
The Colorado legislature and PUC admonish Tri-State for their lack of transparency and for potentially undermining the State in strongly worded letters and statements to Tri-State leadership.
In July DMEA settled their case with Tri-State and will be leaving the Tri-State “family” in May of 2020. LPEA also asks for their own buyout number.
In the midst of all this contention, Tri-State announces their new bold new “Responsible Energy Plan” with a self-congratulatory announcement that appeared to be neither bold nor much of a plan. There will be an announcement about the plan’s proposals in January.
While there might be positive steps forward in the proposal, we’re concerned that it’ll be yet another publicity stunt for Tri-State to curry public favor while they keep negotiating with state regulators.
Stay tuned for updates on the plan in the new year- we’ll be holding them accountable for a substantial plan that includes aggressive carbon reduction goals, increased local generation, and lower costs to members.
For the first time in 25 years the Colorado PUC files to intervene in a case before FERC. Their intervention and protest filing asked FERC to dismiss all of Tri-State’s filings, calling them “procedurally unsound, premature, incomplete, and jurisdictionally problematic.” They call out Tri-State’s secretive process, stating, “Tri-State’s rush to file scores of tariffs and contracts should not be rewarded.”
LPEA also files to intervene in the case to protect the interest of members.
Tri-State adds a new member, MIECO, which they assert automatically qualifies them for federal regulation (it didn’t).
LPEA votes on a resolution to aggressively look at three areas of focus to meet its strategic goal from January.
The PUC accepts comments for the first part of its rulemaking regarding Tri-State’s Electric Resource Plan (ERP). The fall rulemaking regarded rules about Tri-State’s ERP itself – we wanted strong new rules to hold them to higher standards.
Tri-State’s FERC application gets denied!
They can still refile, and CEO Duane Highley tells member-owners as he travels around the state that Tri-State is under FERC regulation, even though they are not.
The hearing for the PUC rulemaking also concludes, and a decision is expected sometime near the end of the year.
Frustrated by Tri-State’s moratorium on issuing buyout numbers, LPEA files with the PUC asking them to help determine a “just, reasonable, nondiscriminatory” exit fee. That same week, United Power also files with the PUC, making the same request.
Tri-State’s credit rating also drops, with a bleak outlook issued.
Phew! What a year! Now we’re playing a waiting game for some big decisions and policies to come down the pipe: Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan, the PUC’s decision on LPEA and United’s buyout numbers, another decision on FERC…
As you spend time with friends and family this holiday season, be proud of how far LPEA has come in the last year. As always, though, our work is never done. We’re excited to see you back out there in the new year asking questions and making sure your voice is heard.
Next LPEA Meetings:
January Board Meeting: Wednesday January 15th at LPEA Headquarters. Public comment is at 9am.
Call or email your LPEA Board Directors.
(Hover over your neighborhood for contact information!)