Regulators look at future costs of greenhouse emissions in Colorado |

Regulators look at future costs of greenhouse emissions in Colorado

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” State lawmakers are considering shoring up the ability of state regulators to factor in the future cost of greenhouse gas emissions when evaluating plans to build new power plants.

A portion of a bill aimed at attracting large scale solar projects to Colorado also states that the Public Utilities Commission must consider the future costs of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, when utilities propose adding power plants. Those costs could include a possible national tax on carbon emissions or an emissions cap, which would make it more expensive to operate coal- and gas-fired power plants.

Public Utilities Commission director Doug Dean said Tuesday the commission has already been looking at the possible cost of emitting carbon dioxide when reviewing utilities’ long-range plans. However, some have questioned whether the commission has that authority, Dean said.

He told members of the Senate Local Government Committee that looking at those possible costs is similar to trying to project how the future cost of natural gas would affect the operation of a power plant.

“It would be prudent for the commission to look over its shoulder at what Congress is doing,” Dean said.

The committee delayed a vote on the proposal (House Bill 1164).

Utilities are required to submit their long-range plans for supplying power every four years. In the last round in 2003, Dean said the commission decided to factor in a $9 charge for every ton of carbon dioxide produced. The commission is now reviewing plans submitted in 2007 and Dean said Xcel Energy has proposed factoring in a charge of $20 per ton.

Keith Hay of Environment Colorado said it makes sense to start thinking about carbon costs since the power plants the PUC evaluates today will be around for up to 50 years and because all three remaining presidential hopefuls support curbing green house emissions.

“It really sends a message about what the state of Colorado is about,” Hay said.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has backed stringent caps on greenhouse gas emissions and Sen. Barack Obama has proposed requiring businesses to bid competitively for the right to pollute. Sen. John McCain led the Senate effort to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

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