Tri-State attacking Clean Air Act

To the editor,

Press reports have surfaced recently showing that Tri-State and other large coal-burning power companies have funneled large sums – $7.8 million in 2017 and up to $8.8 million in 2018 – to a D.C.-based, “K” Street firm to lobby the EPA to gut the Clean Air Act. Current EPA officials charged with enforcing the act were, in 2017, senior partners in this lobbying firm. Indeed, one of these officials was paid $2.1 million that year for his lobbying  immediately before he left for the EPA to oversee Clean Air Act implementation.

It also bears noting that Tri-State and the others used a secretive group in the hope they could hide from the public their sizable funding and lobbying efforts.

Congress has now gotten involved in this obvious  conflict of interest. On April 11, the House Energy Committee told Tri-State and the other utilities to identify the source of their funding and to “explain how your substantial annual contributions ... are consistent with your obligations to ratepayers.” Tri-State must respond by April 25.

This is an important development. But Congress’ focus understandably is on the allegations of unethical behavior by EPA officials. There is a much more important concern to us locals – namely that Tri-State has been using our money to gut the Clean Air Act. This is not acceptable, and Tri-State’s actions do not reflect LPEA values.

LPEA cannot sit on the sidelines and do nothing. After all, Tri-State is itself a cooperative and must act consistent with the wishes of LPEA and its other member-owners. LPEA should therefore take three steps in response to this development:

1. Its Board should hold a vote to confirm LPEA’s continuing support of the Clean Air Act. I expect this Board vote will be unanimous. After all, how could any Colorado resident vote against the Clean Air Act?

2. With fellow rural coops, LPEA should form a special committee to investigate and audit all the money Tri-State has spent (and continues to spend) for its own political agenda – and then fix Tri-State’s gross misuse of our money.

3. Finally, LPEA should file a complaint with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The PUC in the Delta-Montrose complaint case, as recently as April 1, reaffirmed that it has regulatory authority to consider complaints alleging that Tri-State has engaged in an unjust and unreasonable practice. Unquestionably, Tri- State’s use of LPEA’s money (which, in turn, is our money) to gut the Clean Air Act constitutes a clear violation of State law that prohibits Tri-State from engaging in an unjust or unreasonable practice.

– Jeff Bork, Durango (This letter was prepared from the sources cited in two articles written recently by Joe Smyth of the Clean Cooperative, see https://www.cleancooperative.com.)