Many of the members of High West Energy Cooperative may or may not have heard of Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association. Tri-State is also a co-op, and they generate and sell wholesale electricity to 42 co-ops in Wyoming, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Colorado. High West has a long and successful relationship with Tri-State. High West is a member-owner of Tri-State with a voting member on their board of directors.
In recent years, Tri-State has been the focus of regulatory disputes in several states where it operates, including Colorado and New Mexico. Regulators in these states asserted authority over Tri- State’s rates, which can affect costs for all of Tri-State’s members, including High West. In response, Tri-State took action to become rate regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC recently held that it has exclusive jurisdiction over Tri-State’s rates, which ensures that all of Tri-State’s members will be treated fairly regarding rates, no matter where they are located.
Tri-State believes in accountability, and it agrees that FERC is the proper regulatory agency to oversee its rates as it strives to increase clean energy production, decrease emissions, reduce wholesale rates to its members (including High West) and maintain reliable service.
As the CEO and General Manager of High West, I have an obligation to our members to explain why this is important. The cooperative business model is built upon the democratic idea that each member should be able to participate in decisions that affect the co-op. With FERC overseeing Tri-State, High West and the other 41 utility members have an opportunity to be heard in the regulatory process. This isn’t the case currently in Colorado, where their Public Utility Commission excludes co-ops like High West from participating in that agency’s decision-making process, even though some of High West’s members live in Colorado.
Part of this dispute centers around two other cooperatives – United Power and La Plata Electric Association – and a complaint they filed against Tri-State. I respect that the leaders of United Power and La Plata need to do what they feel is best for their organizations. I need to do what is best for our members, and we are working together with the vast majority of Tri-State’s member co-ops to make our voice heard. The Colorado regulators have already demonstrated they will deny us and other Tri-State member co-ops the opportunity to participate in the complaint proceedings.
This seems like common sense to me; Tri-State helps bring electricity to Americans in four states, so a federal agency should have jurisdiction. We wouldn’t expect a state agency in Nebraska or Wyoming to be able to make decisions that impact Coloradans.
The final ruling on this complaint could significantly impact the rates Tri-State charges, which in turn would impact the rates High West members pay. High West should be able to speak on behalf of our members before any such ruling is made.