Denver is Turning its Back on Us by Signing Onto Xcel Energy’s Backroom Deal
Thu Jan 20 2022 17:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Xcel is trying to strike a deal to run our state’s biggest source of pollution for another 13 years– and Denver is on board.
Right now, Colorado’s energy future is up for debate, and Denver is falling on the wrong side of history. Xcel Energy’s draft Electric Resource Plan is under review by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC). This plan will determine how the state’s largest utility will provide electricity to Colorado communities between now and 2050. This includes the fate of Xcel’s existing fossil fuel plants, including our state’s biggest source of climate pollution, the famously unreliable and costly Comanche 3 coal plant in Pueblo.
The PUC has seen an outpouring of over a thousand public comments for a faster transition to renewable energy, calling for an end to all coal-fired power in Colorado by 2030 at the very latest. Just a week before the commissioners were set to hear the final round of verbal comments from the public on the draft plan, Xcel Energy proposed a settlement that would move the retirement date for Comanche 3 to 2035. Even after retirement, the settlement would allow Xcel to recover the full cost for the remaining balance of the coal plant through rate increases, leaving customers on the hook for Xcel’s poor investments. It also allows Xcel to continue to burn fracked gas for at least 40 years, perpetuating our reliance on fossil fuels and doling out further damage to disproportionately impacted communities.
Notably, not one of the environmental organizations participating in the case signed on– instead, the settlement has been supported by state agencies, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, and city representatives, including the City of Denver. This settlement agreement directly contradicts Denver’s values. After all, Denver has a goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030, well before the settlement proposes transitioning away from fossil fuels. And the voters have overwhelmingly voted for Environmental Justice with a yes vote for environmental justice funding via 2A in 2020.
Denverites should see this settlement as what it is: a blatant corporate bailout to allow Xcel to continue to profit at the expense of some of our most vulnerable communities. In Pueblo, Latino communities living near Comanche 3 suffer from elevated rates of asthma and COPD, and don’t even receive the electricity generated at the plant. At a PUC hearing in Pueblo last October, two-thirds of the comments called for a faster transition than Xcel is proposing. In Denver, we benefit directly from Pueblo’s sacrifices, and it’s our responsibility to stand in solidarity with the workers and community in Pueblo that make our lives possible. A compromise on the retirement date for C3 is a compromise on public health. By signing onto the settlement, Denver continues to be complicit in this cycle of extraction and injustice. And Pueblo is not alone- much closer to home, communities in the North Denver communities of Cole, Globeville, and Elyria-Swansea are suffering from health issues triggered by a disproportionate amount of pollution from various sources. Among them is Xcel's Cherokee fracked gas plant, which is under scrutiny for missing air quality monitoring requirements in its permitting process. This settlement could subject 80216, once determined to be the most polluted zip code in the entire country, to decades of additional pollution from the Cherokee plant.
Across the state, communities are waking up to these injustices and demanding better. Denver must seize this opportunity to use its power as a state leader to stand up for what’s right - and that is to withdraw support for this back door deal that suffocates latino communities.