By Joe Smyth | firstname.lastname@example.org | @joesmyth
A Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association executive has been involved since 2005 with the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG), the anti-Clean Air Act group that is the subject of a US congressional investigation, raising questions about the amount of money that Tri-State has contributed to the group over the last 14 years.
On Thursday, leaders of the US Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote to Tri-State and other utilities, requesting information and documents about the utilities' relationship with UARG, a secretive group that has played a key role in lawsuits aimed at rolling back Clean Air Act rules. Internal UARG documents obtained by Politico show that Tri-State contributed $167,418 to UARG in 2017.
In their April 11 letter, congressional investigators asked Tri-State to "Please explain how your substantial annual contributions to UARG are consistent with your obligations to ratepayers."
Congressional investigators are also seeking a variety of documents and information from Tri-State and other utilities by April 25, including "Membership and leadership nominations" and "Documents relating to the Policy Committee, including all documents relating to meetings thereof."
A bio of Barbara Walz, Tri-State's Senior Vice President of Policy and Compliance, shows that she has been a member of UARG's Policy Committee since 2005, and a member of UARG's Steering Committee since 2010.
If Tri-State has contributed a comparable amount to UARG each year since 2005 as it did in 2017, that could amount to more than two million dollars.
It isn't clear how much Tri-State and other utilities have contributed to UARG in earlier years, because the document Politico obtained only showed amounts that utilities paid to UARG in 2017. Congressional investigators are seeking UARG's budgets and funding requests since 2005.
With a representative on UARG's Policy Committee, Tri-State could have played a role in establishing UARG's annual budget, and therefore the amounts requested from each utility to fund UARG's legal challenges to Clean Air Act rules. The internal UARG document that Politico obtained suggests that the UARG Policy Committee sets UARG's annual budget. That document shows that UARG spent $8.2 million in 2017, and UARG said that figure could increase in 2018.
The significance of the Tri-State executive's position on UARG's Steering Committee is not clear, but it could represent a leadership role within UARG. The UARG internal document obtained by Politico mentions a "Policy and Steering Audit" Committee, which is chaired by American Electric Power executive John McManus - who is also named as UARG's chair.
Tri-State executive met with Bill Wehrum regarding the Mercury Air Toxics Standard
A focus of the congressional investigation is whether Bill Wehrum, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the US Environmental Protection Agency, violated ethics rules by rolling back Clean Air Act rules in order to benefit his former clients in the utility industry. As part of the investigation, Energy and Commerce Committee leaders asked Tri-State to provide information about communications and documents it shared with certain EPA officials.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of information Act by the Energy and Policy Institute show that Barbara Walz was among those in a February 12 meeting that Bill Wehrum organized regarding MATS, or the Mercury Air Toxics Standard.
US Congressional Committee requests details of Tri-State funding to anti-Clean Air Act group
Washington Post: House panel launches probe of EPA’s air policy chief
US House Energy and Commerce Committee press release: E&C leaders launch investigation of secretive front group UARG and its tires to EPA officials
US House Energy and Commerce Committee letter to Tri-State
Politico February 2019 investigation: Documents detail multimillion-dollar ties involving EPA official, secretive industry group
Internal UARG document obtained by Politico as part of February 2019 investigation
Energy and Policy Institute: Bill Wehrum: A top Trump official at EPA delivers for former utility industry clients
S&P Global 2016 investigation: Power companies wield influence through anonymous group
Tri-State: Moving a cooperative power provider from coal to clean energy
Tri-State will replace coal plants with a gigawatt of new wind and solar
United Power and La Plata Electric ask Colorado Public Utilities Commission to determine Tri-State exit fee
Colorado Rural Electric Association spent electric cooperatives’ money supporting Republican politicians
Colorado Public Utilities Commissioner questions "whether or not Tri-State has been candid with us"
Rural America could power a renewable economy - but first we need to solve coal debt
Tri-State explores FERC rate regulation to limit state oversight
Poudre Valley Electric sets "80 by 2030" carbon free goal
Guzman Energy proposal would finance retirement of Tri-State coal plants, add 1.2 gigawatts of new wind and solar power
Colorado Public Utilities Commission will oversee Tri-State resource planning
Colorado communities and state Energy Office urge Public Utilities Commission oversight of Tri-State
Reports examine the impacts of Tri-State's high wholesale power costs
Tri-State executive involved with anti-Clean Air Act group since 2005
US Congressional Committee requests details of Tri-State funding to anti-Clean Air Act group
Renewable energy projects stalled in 2018 among Tri-State member co-ops
Second co-op asks Tri-State to pull “Better Together” ads
Tri-State won’t allow co-op members to attend annual meeting
Tri-State expects member co-ops to support bylaw changes at annual meeting
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union calls on Tri-State to adopt flexible contracts and more clean energy
Co-ops in Colorado push for change at Tri-State
Will Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska remain reliant on coal?
Tri-State ad campaign tells co-ops they’re “better together”
La Plata Electric concerned Tri-State debt will lead to higher rates
Colorado Public Utilities Commission asserts jurisdiction over Tri-State
More Colorado co-ops announce clean energy goals
Ski industry climate change efforts shift to electric utilities and their regulators
Public Utilities Commission rejects Tri-State motion to exclude Colorado Energy Office from exit charge case
Tri-State claims that co-ops "have intervened on Tri-State's behalf at the PUC” don’t add up
Colorado state legislators urge Public Utilities Commission to determine Tri-State exit charge
United Power says Tri-State policies are turning away large customers
Next PUC Commissioner John Gavan "consensus choice" of Governors Hickenlooper and Polis
Tri-State policy change discourages battery projects in rural Colorado and New Mexico
Colorado Public Utilities Commission orders Tri-State to "satisfy or answer" exit charge complaint from Delta Montrose Electric
United Power seeks solutions to "increasingly outmoded G&T business models"
Clean Energy Means Business Summit highlights renewable energy opportunities and challenges in rural Colorado
Governor-elect Jared Polis says moving Colorado toward more renewable energy will be a top priority
Electric cooperative officials discuss cheap renewable energy and an “eroding monopoly”
Delta Montrose Electric members vote for new financing options, supporting a potential buyout of Tri-State contract
Poudre Valley Electric requests Tri-State policy changes and fuel mix study
Holy Cross Energy plans to shift away from coal, aiming for 70% renewable energy
What do corporate renewable energy commitments mean for electric utilities?
Colorado Energy Plan approval will mean new renewable energy investments in rural Colorado
Report: Tri-State could save $600 million by shifting from coal to renewable energy
Delta Montrose Electric seeks new financing options to end contract with Tri-State
Wind energy jobs in rural Colorado attract bipartisan support
Colorado Energy Plan analysis shows switching from coal to renewable energy will boost jobs and local tax revenue
Poudre Valley Electric and Xcel Energy Colorado President win national awards from Smart Electric Power Alliance
Latest coal plant subsidy proposal could hit electricity bills in the West
Moody’s report: “High quality renewable resources” could help Tri-State and Basin Electric navigate rising carbon transition risks
Senator Heinrich highlights “frustrations in New Mexico” with Tri-State’s limits on local solar
Moody’s report shows Tri-State’s coal plants are more expensive than new renewable energy
Tri-State’s limits on local energy development are a growing problem for co-op members
Governor Hickenlooper discusses Tri-State at the Climate Leadership Conference
Bids for Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan include a proposal for the world’s largest battery
New wind and solar power in Colorado is now cheaper than existing coal plants
Companies' 100% renewable energy goals are getting results in Colorado
What does cheap solar mean for electric cooperatives?
Colorado towns and cities are helping push utilities to embrace renewable energy
How are electric cooperatives navigating the transition from coal to cheap clean energy?
Blocked from building more solar projects, United Power shifts to community batteries
Economic reality sets in for Tri-State efforts to expand the Holcomb coal plant
Solar projects in the works in Grand and Jackson counties
Mountain Parks Electric grapples with solar