Public Service Commission Holds Hearing In Rock Springs

Public Service Commission Holds Hearing In Rock Springs

Sweetwater County Commissioner Wally Johnson speaks to members of the Public Service Commission during a public hearing in Rock Springs on January 29.

ROCK SPRINGS — The Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC) held a public hearing in the the Rock Springs City Council chambers on January 29 as part of the agency’s investigation into Rocky Mountain Power’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

The PSC’s interest in the IRP stems from a question of whether or not that plan provides the best outcomes for Wyoming consumers. Since the 2019 IRP stipulated earlier than previously anticipated closure dates for several coal fired power generating units in Wyomingm when it was released in October of last year, questions have swirled about impacts on communities like Rock Springs and Kemmerer.

Rocky Mountain Power says that all steps outlined in the IRP are based on providing affordable and reliable energy to costumers, while some Wyoming lawmakers insist that plans to transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy are the result of political pressure from other states in the company’s service area.

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The PSC is tasked with ensuring that publicly regulated utilities provide reliable service at just and reasonable costs to Wyoming rate payers. So, under considerable pressure from lawmakers to flex it’s regulatory muscle, the PSC has undertaken an investigation of the 2019 IRP. Though what power the agency has to actually change Rocky Mountain Power’s future plans is still unclear.

Wednesday’s meeting provided more of the same. Proponents of continued coal fired power generation accused Rocky Mountain Power of caring more about the perceptions of political liberals in “west coast” states than they do about communities, workers, consumers and resources in Wyoming. Rocky Mountain Power insists their plans are based on simple economics.

Rocky Mountain Power Vice President Rick Link gave a 30 minute presentation on how the company arrived at the conclusions in the IRP. “The renewable resources added in the portfolio, were added because of economics, not because of state driven policy,” Link said.

Sweetwater County Commissioner Wally Johnson spoke after Link. “The impact of what they’re talking about is very very significant to our county,” Johnson said. “It is the company’s prerogative to do whatever they want, they seem not to care what it’s going to do to the people of Sweetwater County.”

Johnson said that he is tasked with looking out for the interests of people in Sweetwater County and said that he does not support or represent the interests of people in Utah, California, Oregon or Washington, who he said are “making this happen” and will “reap the benefits of what’s going on here.”

Wyoming State House Representative Clark Stith also spoke at the hearing and asked the PSC the enquire further about how Rocky Mountain Power will look to recover costs from stranded coal assets and also if the company has done enough to consider the IRP’s negative externalities as part of economic analyses.