Shutting down coal-fired plants: Did Nevada just borrow the playbook from Colorado?

There is an eerily familiar passage in a Wall Street Journal editorial today about Obama’s nominee to head up FERC, Ron Binz, an electric power regulator from Colorado.

The editorial notes that Binz’s job in Colorado, like his proposed job at FERC, was to be an independent and even-handed arbitrator and not to carry water for the politicians.

Instead, Binz bought into Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s campaign to save the planet by forcing expensive green energy onto the ratepayers, while shutting down less expensive coal-fire plants.

The WSJ writes:

Mr. Binz became the point man for legislation that would all but force several Denver-area coal plants to convert to natural gas though they weren’t slated for retirement. He even negotiated terms directly with the Colorado power company that it was his responsibility to regulate, Xcel Energy.

Mr. Binz assured Xcel that it could pass on to rate payers, with a guaranteed return, whatever capital investment was necessary to replace the working coal assets. …

In other words, the more Xcel spent in the name of the Ritter-Binz political agenda, the more Mr. Binz would use the discretion he gave himself in the law he wrote to give Xcel favorable treatment. When Stockholm syndrome set in with Xcel and the company took the deal, Mr. Binz exulted that “the eagle has landed.” It was great for everyone except the consumers involuntarily funding it.

Sound at all familiar? Perhaps it reminds one of this passage from an Ely Times column in April about Senate Bill 123, which is shutting down Nevada’s coal-fired plant prematurely and passing on the cost in form of higher power bills:

Reid Gardner coal-fired plant. (Photo by Kent Harper)

To cut its risks and cover its assets the company (NV Energy) submitted Senate Bill 123 to the Legislature. The bill would saddle ratepayers with every dime of the cost to mothball the coal plants — including any undepreciated balance, decommissioning and remediation, contract termination costs, even the value of any unused coal left lying around. …

Dan Jacobsen of the attorney general’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which represents ratepayer interests at the Public Utilities Commission, said, “In addition to replacing about 1,000 megawatts of coal capacity, the bill also would be replacing a very large amount of power purchase agreements right now that ratepayers don’t have to provide a return on.”

NV Energy’s profits come from a rate of return on equity, which is currently about 10 percent, but the more equity in power plants and power lines the greater the return. …

Jacobsen also said SB123 could deter the PUC’s ability to control costs. One part dictates the “Commission shall approve” costs, and another says emissions reduction “shall be deemed to be a prudent investment. The electric utility may recover all just and reasonable costs …”

As Texas Congressman Lamar Smith points out today in the WSJ, we are doing all this without any proof that it will do an iota of good. The most transparent administration in the history of the galaxy refuses to reveal the data it uses to justify a multibillion-dollar regulatory agenda to scrub carbon from the atmosphere.

“For two years, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, of which I am the chairman, has sought to make this information available to the public,” Smith writes. “But the EPA has obstructed the committee’s request at every step. To date, the committee has sent six letters to the EPA and other top administration officials seeking the data’s release.”

The people have no say as to what is on the regulatory menu, we just pick up the tab.

3 comments on “Shutting down coal-fired plants: Did Nevada just borrow the playbook from Colorado?

  1. Vernon Clayson says:

    There should have been some mention of Harry Reid’s part in this. He’s against coal, soon will be against gas if it’s what his White House cronies want.

  2. […] who pushed through legislation that is shutting down all the Denver-area coal-fired plants. That legislation was a blueprint for Nevada’s SB123, which requires all coal plants to be closed early and have the ratepayers […]

  3. […] cut its risks and cover its assets the NV Energy submitted Senate Bill 123 to the Legislature. The bill saddles ratepayers with every dime of the cost to mothball the coal plants — including any undepreciated balance, decommissioning and remediation, contract termination costs, […]

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