Soap Box

Vote against special interests
05/03/2018

To the editor,

The LPEA Board elections have turned into a dirty mess of special interests led by one-sided personal agendas. It started last year when some candidates obtained board seats and then began pushing to get out of a power-purchasing contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission in the name of renewable energy. TSGT, as an electric cooperative, is owned by LPEA and 42 other cooperatives.

LPEA and TSGT are national leaders in the renewable energy initiative. While TSGT currently has a generation portfolio that includes coal and natural gas as its base-loading generation, renewable generation of wind, solar and hydro now nears 30 percent of the combined generation. This had been a significant shift for a company of this size. I’ve watched it, and I believe the shift to more renewables will continue for many years to come.

If the special interest candidates get voted onto the Board of Directors, there will be a push to leave TSGT at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to LPEA, affecting member rates. You, as a member, will have no say, as the Board’s vote to leave TSGT (costing millions) will be solely a Board decision.

I urge and recommend you to vote for these candidates in your district: District 1 – Bob Formwalt; District 2 – Kohler McInnis; District 4 – Karen Barger; and District 3

– Gene Fisher. I know these candidates are conscientious citizens and concerned for the membership as a whole.

– Steve Gregg, retired LPEA Chief Operating Officer

Stop blindly defending Tri-State
05/03/2018

To the editor,

I am writing in response to a letter by Mr. John Beebe, “Progressives’ LPEA plan is self-serving.” In his letter, Beebe makes several misleading claims.

First, he claims that “progressive” candidates for the LPEA Board want to exit LPEA’s contract with Tri-State. None of the candidates have voiced this opinion, they are simply in support of considering LPEA’s options. Then, Beebe asserts that a buyout would cost LPEA $400 million – another misleading claim. Regardless of whether or not this number is true (it is unclear how Beebe calculated it when the LPEA Board itself isn’t sure of a number), he neglects to point out that the savings from a buyout could very possibly negate these costs.

I would especially like to point to Beebe’s (and Tri-State’s) claim that Tri-State is “supplying us with 30 percent renewable electricity today, two full years ahead of the state-mandated 20 percent by 2020.” Despite the millions of dollars Tri-State has spent touting this fact, it’s absolutely not true.

Two-thirds of Tri-State’s self-calculated renewables portfolio is generated by federal hydropower, which is not considered renewable under Colorado State mandate. Construction of these dams preceded the existence of Tri-State.

We need LPEA directors who will look past the big, inflammatory numbers and find out what they actually mean. We need directors who will work hard for LPEA members, not blindly defend Tri-State. Please, vote for Bassett, Wheeler, Mannix or Skeehan before May 12.

– Erika Brown, Durango

Consider all carbon emissions costs
05/03/2018

To the editor,

Not enough water for crops. Fires probable. Dead Lawns. Dust everywhere. Decreased tourism. Perhaps we should consider those costs as we vote for LPEA leadership. Tri-State, our LPEA supplier, has the second-worst carbon emissions of the 100 largest power producers in the U.S. Vote!

– Kent Ford, Durango

Not so fast with the 'FastFacts'
05/03/2018

In our community’s evolving conversation about energy, it’s nearly impossible to chase “spin,” especially from a powerful platform. Here’s a try.

Recent LPEA “FastFacts”1 and FaceBook2 postings decry “FAKE NEWS” by “people… just fabricating numbers” (using terms like “fictitious,” “agenda,” and “distort”). When queried for details, LPEA does not respond to me, the author of the only letter3 they directly reference. I don’t enjoy being maligned, but I want most to set the record straight.

I’m not an expert. But I am aware of important facts that LPEA distracts us from. LPEA is silent about our provider Tri-State being the second worst emitter of CO2 per kWh, of the top 100 American energy producers4 (a reflection of its very high-coal fuel mix4), and about how poisonous5 and risky6 coal is, just for starters.

Numbered below are portions of LPEA’s “FastFacts:”1 “Assertions” (LPEA’s version of my statements); my actual statement and/or LPEA’s commentary (also in quotes); and my response.

1. “Assertion: LPEA members pay considerably more than other Colorado communities.”

LPEA’s original FastFacts pdf included a chart showing 21 Tri-State member coops’ residential costs (half, cheaper than ours), three non-Tri-State rural co-ops (two significantly cheaper), and considerably cheaper municipalities. It inadvertently proved my point, so was removed from LPEA’s website. It is available on my blog, noted below.

My letter3 referenced LPEA’s residential rates (12.6c/kWh), higher than Xcel’s (9.6c/kWh). LPEA provides explanations, but forgets to mention that LPEA customers pay $180/year more in residential base charges than Xcel customers 7,8, and that local generation could significantly offset transmission costs9.

2. “Assertion: Xcel received bids for new wind (1.8 c/kWh) and solar energy (2c/kWh) that undercut Tri-State Generation and Transmission (TSGT) pricing (7.5 c/kWh).”

My actual statement3: “Xcel (received bids…) 1.81c/kWh for wind, 2.99c/kWh for solar. Add transmission and other costs (under 2c/kWh), and they decisively undercut Tri-State’s wholesale rate, 7.5c/kWh.”

LPEA deletes my “Add transmission and other costs” phrase to obscure my “apples to apples” comparison showing that our costs could be lower.

LPEA continues with commentary: “Xcel did receive dynamic pricing for new extremely large-scale projects (700 MegaWatts or greater). For reference LPEA’s peak is approximately 150 MW’s during the winter. Scale matters.”

Xcel’s bid spreadsheet10 lists 75 solar projects totaling 13,435 MW. That averages 180MW per project, not 700MW. Solar on this relative scale is precisely what we could use locally to bring our prices down. Why the misrepresentation?

3. “Assertion: LPEA’s residential rate has increased more than 80% over the past 15 years.”

My actual statement3: “Our rising LPEA electricity rates have… increased 87 percent.”

LPEA inserts the word “residential,” shifting to a totally different rate question. Was LPEA confused? Actually, no. My quote immediately followed “Tri-State’s wholesale rate, 7.5c/kWh” and started a paragraph devoted only to wholesale rates. Clearly the topic was wholesale rates.

Based on this wordplay, LPEA proclaimed that my figures were “fabricated,”2 creating a hostile controversy on social media targeted at me. LPEA ignores my multiple requests for corrected figures for LPEA’s wholesale rates from Tri-State in 2002 and 2017. I welcome correction; we need to know the truth.

4. “Assertion: Tri-State is 93% coal and 7% natural gas…”

LPEA follows with a pejorative slight, then commentary:

“Fast Fact: ‘Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.’ - Mark Twain

One must consider the entire report … The graph/stat referenced, considers only facilities that are directly owned by the utility and doesn’t consider any other generation purchases.”

My actual statement, from an unpublished letter that LPEA acquired: “TSG&T’s production fuel mix is 93% coal, 7% natural gas. Only by purchasing 10% hydropower and 20% other renewables can it claim the boasted 30% renewable portion.4

LPEA deleted my reference to purchased power, then proclaims the need for such context. Why? By so doing, LPEA obscures a crucial fact: Tri-State by ownership is almost entirely coal-invested, which is financially risky6. Before election season, LPEA’s CEO himself said “LPEA is also concerned with Tri-State’s concentration in coal. That’s not only an environmental impact concern we have, it’s a risk management issue to be so heavily concentrated in one fuel source.” The pdf source for this quote (CEO Letter 2018) is on my blog.

LPEA can lead us toward falsehood, or toward facts.

Read about this in more detail at my blog.

– Kirby MacLauran, Durango

 

Footnotes:

1 - https://www.lpea.com/fast-facts

2 - https://www.facebook.com/La-Plata-Electric-Association-LPEA-156826354366466/ April 6th entry

3 - https://durangoherald.com/articles/216338-should-we-keep-paying-more-for-power

4 - https://www.mjbradley.com/sites/default/files/Benchmarking-Air-Emissions-2017.pdf

5 - https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=coal_environment

6 - https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-Utilities-increasingly-adding-low-cost-wind-power-to-rate--PR_363547?WT.mc_id=AM~RmluYW56ZW4ubmV0X1JTQl9SYXRpbmdzX05ld3NfTm9fVHJhbnNsYXRpb25z~20170315_PR_363547

7 - https://www.xcelenergy.com/company/rates_and_regulations/rates/rate_books

8 - https://www.lpea.com/electric-energy-rates

9 - https://www.ferc.gov/legal/fed-sta/exp-study.pdf

10 - https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Proceeding-No.-16A-0396E_PUBLIC-30-Day-Report_FINAL_CORRECTED-REDACTION.pdf

 

Back to baseline, and then some
05/03/2018

To the editor,

Thank you for the “Uncharted Waters” article in the April 26 edition describing the efforts of the Citizens Superfund Workgroup. There is however one important correction I’d like to make. The article states that one of the main goals of the group was to attain water quality conditions seen in 1999-2003. The actual goal is to at least attain water quality conditions seen in 1999-2003. This is the floor of what we would like to see. We know it is attainable from the time when Sunnyside Gold Corp. operated a treatment plant in Gladstone. We would like to do better, but how much better is undetermined until EPA finishes a comprehensive feasibility analysis. There is a concern that given the budgetary restrictions of the government agencies involved, there may be attempts to not meet those earlier water quality conditions in order to reduce costs.

– Peter Butler, Animas River Stakeholders