LARAMIE (AP) — Wyoming regulators plan to discuss in September an electric utility’s plan to close several coal-fired power plants in the West in the years ahead following an investigation into the proposal.
Portland, Oregon-based PacifiCorp also proposes to develop significant solar energy, wind power and battery storage facilities throughout the region.
The retirement of coal-fired power is worrisome to many in Wyoming, the top coal-producing state. The Wyoming Public Service Commission launched its investigation into PacifiCorp’s long-term planning proposal in November.
The investigation, the first of its kind in commission history, seeks to answer two questions, commission Chairwoman Kara Fornstrom said.
“First, is the preferred portfolio economically sound and, second, does the preferred portfolio ensure reliability?” Fornstrom said.
It’s not clear whether the commission has the authority to deny PacifiCorp’s Integrated Resource Plan after its investigation. That question has never been addressed, commission attorney Chris Petrie said.
The commission recently held a weeklong hearing on the proposal. Nine entities, including a coalition of local governments, a group of industrial energy customers and a state citizen’s group, weighed in during the hearing, Wyoming Public Radio reported.
PacifiCorp did not include necessary reviews such as a socioeconomic analysis and the potential for trapping carbon dioxide from power plants to keep the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere, opponents said.
Opponents also expressed concern about how plans to retire coal-fired power generation will cost hundreds of jobs in southwestern Wyoming.
“They don’t have a heart about the effects they’re having on the people,” Sweetwater County Commissioner Wally Johnson said. “I think they’ve done a very poor job of letting people know what’s going to come down here, but they’re a big company. I don’t believe that other ratepayers should pay for what’s happening here.”
The proposal would hasten plans to retire coal-fired generators at the Jim Bridger and Naughton power plants in Wyoming and the Craig power plant in Colorado.
PacifiCorp has tried to “bend over backwards” to be available to the public, said Rick Link, PacifiCorp’s vice president of resource planning and acquisitions.
A socioeconomic analysis would “fundamentally alter” the basis of the plan and the primary goal of keeping rates low while maintaining reliable service, Link said.
The utility could analyze the potential for carbon capture in the years ahead, Link added.