By Joe Smyth | email@example.com | @joesmyth
Leaders of the US Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and other electric utilities today, requesting information about the utilities' relationships with the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG), a secretive lobby group focused on rolling back Clean Air Act rules.
In the letter to Tri-State, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chair Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) wrote, “UARG has avoided any transparency, with details of its funding and internal organization only recently revealed. Your company contributed $167,418 in 2017 to fund UARG's activities, with a higher contribution projected for 2018."
Because of Tri-State's funding of UARG and its legal challenges against Clean Air Act rules, the Energy and Commerce Committee leaders wrote to Tri-State to request information and documents as part of their investigation into UARG and its connections to senior US Environmental Protection Agency officials.
The Energy and Commerce Committee investigation into UARG is focused on whether senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency violated ethics rules by rolling back Clean Air Act rules in order to benefit their former clients, including Tri-State and other coal-heavy utilities. Bill Wehrum and David Harlow formerly represented UARG and its utility industry clients, and are now in key positions to weaken Clean Air Act rules as Assistant Administrator and Senior Counsel for the Office of Air and Radiation at the US Environmental Protection Agency.
In February, Politico reported:
The nation’s biggest coal-burning power companies paid a top lobbying firm millions of dollars to fight a wide range of Obama-era environmental rules, documents obtained by POLITICO reveal — shortly before one of the firm’s partners became President Donald Trump’s top air pollution regulator.
Now that ex-partner, Bill Wehrum, is aggressively working to undo many of those same regulations at the EPA, where he is an assistant administrator in charge of issues including climate change, smog and power plants’ mercury pollution.
As part of that investigation, Politico obtained documents that showed how much money each utility had spent funding UARG in 2017. Those documents revealed that Tri-State paid $167,418 to UARG in 2017.
An earlier investigation by S&P Global revealed that UARG sought to keep its members and sources of funding secret.
Is funding UARG's attacks on the Clean Air Act "consistent with your obligations to ratepayers" ?
In the letter, Energy and Commerce Committee leaders requested that Tri-State provide details about its communications with certain EPA officials, documents related to UARG's legal status and funding, and more.
In addition to those documents, Energy and Commerce Committee leaders asked Tri-State and other utilities questions about the source of the funds they contributed to UARG, whether state regulators had approved the use of such funds to fund UARG, and how the utilities' contributions to UARG "are consistent with your obligations to ratepayers."
In Tri-State's case, the answer to the first question is likely straightforward. Unlike most of the other utilities that fund UARG, Tri-State doesn't have shareholders because it is a generation and transmission association, not an investor-owned utility. Tri-State sells wholesale power to 43 electric cooperatives in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Nebraska, and those electricity sales are the source of substantially all of its revenues.
The Energy and Commerce Committee leaders requested a response to its questions and document requests by April 25, 2019.
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: House Democrats launch probe into EPA officials' ties to utilities
Politico investigation: Documents detail multimillion-dollar ties involving EPA official, secretive industry group
S&P Global investigation in 2016: Power companies wield influence through anonymous group
Latest coal plant subsidy proposal could hit electricity bills in the West
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