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Public Service Commission holds public meeting on future of energy in Lincoln County

The Public Service Commission held a special meeting Tuesday in Kemmerer to get input from the public on the new IRP Rocky Mountain Power introduced which announced the eventual retirements of Naughton units.

State Senator Fred Baldwin (District 14) said it was a good turnout with people all over southwest Wyoming showing up to share their thoughts. He says one important thing some people brought it up is this is just not a money issue.

“A lot of this gets thrown out in numbers in billions and billions of dollars,” Baldwin said. “But this is a people issue.”

To illustrate his point at one point in the meeting they had all the miners stand up. He says it was a large group of the audience because it affects all of them.

“Through them it affects the schools, it affects the hospitals, grocery stores,” Baldwin said. “That was one of the big points… is that this is a people issue.”

Lincoln County Treasurer Jerry Greenfield also expressed deep concern for the people of the county in the meeting if the coal mine and power plant gets shut down.

“You look at the number of people that could be unemployed, the turn down in the businesses, the reduction in the value of properties,” Greenfield said. “The big thing the county has to look at is how we’re going to meet that.

“We’re going to have start cutting people, jobs, services and pretty soon you get to the point you have nothing left to cut, but throw in the towel.”

Greenfield pointed out that if the coal mine and power plant were to close that would be a $10-15 million dollar hit. However, it would it also be further reaching and could affect the budget $20-25 million.

“And with a budget of $40-45 million, guess what we’re in trouble,” Greenfield said.

Rocky Mountain Power’s IRP announced the future retirements of Naughton units 1, 2, and 3.

Rocky Mountain Power issued a statement saying its goal with IRP is to provide customers safe and affordable electricity over the next 20 years and acknowledges how the changes can be difficult.

“Any employee who wants continued employment with Rocky Mountain Power/PacifiCorp will be afforded that opportunity,” CEO of the energy company Gary Hoogeveen said. “For some, it may mean learning new skills. For others, it might mean relocating to where new opportunities are available.”

He says they have announced a significant expansion to its employee education assistance program. It will provide full tuition reimbursement for any course of study. He also says the company prefers internal hiring for employees affected by the coal transition.

Part of the IRP Rocky Mountain Power announced is the transition into resources like wind and solar. Baldwin says this was one of the concerns that was brought up.

“Talk about how the battery technology is not there for storage yet,” Baldwin said.

He acknowledged Rocky Mountain Power’s goal is to in the long run save the consumer money on their power bills in the long run. However, the public kept bringing up where the reliability is in wind and solar.

“There were no answers,” Baldwin said. “These were all just questions that were made.”

He says that seemed to be the overall feeling is why the need to go to solar and wind and whether or not it is proven energy sources. Then tie that into how it is affecting many lifestyles and people in the area.

Baldwin says the Public Service Commission put on this meeting to listen to the questions and then take those concerns and do an investigation. Now it has some information or evidence to go off of.

“Whether or not it affects Rocky Mountain Power’s IRP, probably not,” Baldwin said. “But it may affect how the Public Service Commission deals with that IRP, whether or not they accept what has been submitted to them or not.”

He also says this was a generalized hearing and that if or when a power plant or unit is scheduled to be shut down they will hold individual meetings on it. He says one thing the public can do is keep their eyes open for notices of those meetings. He also said the Public Service Commission will accept written public comments through April and so people can express their thoughts that way and it will be taken into consideration.