Wyoming Investigating Company’s Plan for Closures at Coal-Fired Power Plants
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon is directing resources to a state commission investigating whether a power company's plan to pivot away from coal-fired power plants is economically justified.
The early retirement of power-generating units which operate using coal in Wyoming "may adversely impact the cost and reliability of service provided to [Rocky Mountain Power]'s Wyoming customers while producing significant negative economic impacts," reads a public notice of the investigation from the state Public Service Commission dated Nov. 22.
In a statement Thursday, Gordon announced that he is providing funding to the commission to "ensure a robust analysis" of the power company's plan, which would result in job losses in the state.
Released in October, that plan -- known as the Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP -- would retire a number of coal-fired power units in the state years ahead of their "established depreciable life," or end-of-life date.
"Because the IRP filed by Rocky Mountain Power will significantly impact the state of Wyoming and her workers, it is critical that we have a full understanding of how the company reached its conclusions, and whether the analysis that was conducted was correct, thorough and unbiased," Gordon said in Thursday's news release.
Those closures would impact the Naughton plant near Kemmerer, the Jim Bridger Plant near Rock Springs and the Dave Johnston plant near Glenrock, though the latter closure would come at the plant's previously established end-of-life date.
"To assist them in choosing the action contemplated in the IRP, Rocky Mountain Power relied upon various data sources and modeling efforts," Gordon's office said Thursday. The investigation, with a public hearing set for May 5-6, will "explore all aspects of the 2019 IRP, including but not limited to, the methodologies, assumptions and development process" which led to the planned closures, according to the commission's November notice.
Gordon has directed the Public Service Commission to issue a request for proposals, seeking "experienced individuals or entities to provide intensive expert analysis of the data and modeling assumptions used by Rocky Mountain Power." Gordon will ensure the Commission has enough funding to complete that undertaking.
As part of its Energy Vision 2020 initiative, Rocky Mountain Power is looking to significantly expand the amount of wind-generated power in its portfolio and move away from coal as a source of energy, which it says will keep consumer costs low via federal production tax credits and benefit rural economies by creating construction jobs and bolstering local tax revenues.
In April, Gordon issued a statement and said he was "deeply concerned to learn about this path that Rocky Mountain Power is moving down," citing potential statewide impacts including revenue for schools and loss of employment.
The state's investigation of the IRP will include public comment hearings: Jan. 28 from 4-7 p.m. at the Kemmerer City Council Chambers and Jan. 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Rock Springs City Council Chambers.
A public evidentiary hearing will be held May 5-6 in the commission's hearing room in Cheyenne.
Neither Gordon's office nor Rocky Mountain Power immediately responded to requests for comment from K2 Radio News on Thursday.