Cameo conundrum

Saving jobs in Western Colorado is important, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of conservative principles that argue against government interference in private businesses.

Yet that appears to be exactly what is happening with legislation to be introduced by Rep. Steve King — and cosponsored by Sen. Josh Penry — to prevent Xcel Energy from closing the Cameo Power Plant in De Beque Canyon.

As a state-regulated utility, Xcel is different from the average private business, it’s true. Decisions such as closing the Cameo plant must be approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

But Xcel has already received preliminary approval for doing so, arguing that the half-century-old plant is inefficient and needs to be closed as Xcel works to meet voter-approved mandates on how much of the company’s electricity must come from alternative fuel sources such as wind and solar.

In fact, Xcel extended the life of the Cameo plant by using it to temporarily test a combination of solar energy and coal for electric generation. But the company made it clear when it announced the test project that it would not keep the plant open permanently.

Along with King, Penry and other members of this community, we would like to see the Cameo plant remain open and its 35 jobs remain a part of the local economy. But other businesses have had to cut jobs and closed facilities to deal with new economic realities. Lawmakers haven’t sought legislation to prohibit those actions.

Furthermore, if Xcel is forced to keep Cameo open despite inefficiencies and mandates for alternative energy, the company may seek rate increases to cover its costs. That could very well mean consumers in this valley will end up paying more for electricity because of legislation pushed by King and Penry.

Much as we would all like to keep jobs in this region right now, it is a mistake for the government to try to substitute its judgment for that of a private business regarding how it can operate in the most efficient and economic manner.


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