Reporters should look for meat behind accusations of a war on rural Colorado, after Hick signs renewable energy bill

This afternoon Hick will sign a bill setting a state standard for the amount of electricity rural electricity associations must produce from renewable sources, like wind and solar, according to Fox 31’s Eli Stokols.

Judging from past coverage, Republican opponents of the bill will try to cast it as an attack on rural Colorado.

When Rep. Jared Wright tried to do this back in April, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby pointed out that the Rural Electricity Association in his area supported the renewable-standard bill (SB 252).

So reporters should check for meat behind accusations of an Democratic attack on the ranchers and others in rural counties, if those accusations start flying again today.

Evidence of meatlessness and manipulation by those claiming “war on rural Colorado” can be found in an article about SB 252 in the news letter of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s May “Legis Letter.” The bill was vehemently opposed by a large electricity association called Tri-State Generation and Transmission. Here’s an excerpt from the May RMFU newsletter:

Tri-State and the rural electric family chose to draw a line in the sand, and now we are stuck with goals that may be a challenge to achieve. By refusing to listen to RMFU and other rural and agricultural groups looking for a reasonable compromise, Tri-State only managed one achievement: driving a new wedge between rural and urban Coloradoans.

In the run up to the vote on SB 252, industry “pundits” were predicting the end of civilization: Unemployment in rural communities will double! Rural utility customers will be bankrupted! Urban Colorado declares war on rural Colorado!

Ag groups were caught in the middle, trying to get both sides to listen rather than shout slogans. On the one hand, we don’t want to see rural communities hurt by utility costs; on the other, the sky was not, in spite of what was being shouted, falling. Urban Colorado is working toward a much higher portfolio standard than rural Colorado. They don’t see why that’s fair, and the answer is more complicated than most people understand. But that’s not warfare; it’s a time to talk over our differences. [BigMedia emphasis]

The newsletter quoted Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Kent Peppler, who criticized the uncompromising opposition to SB252. RMFU was neutral on the bill, even though its Renewable Energy Chair sits on the Tri-State Board.

Here’s Peppler’s quote in the RMFU newsletter:

“The lesson in this legislative setback,” said RMFU President Kent Peppler, “is that ‘My way or the highway’ only works if you have the votes. The REAs didn’t have the votes, and ignoring their agricultural constituents and potential allies didn’t help that problem. Going down in flames may be noble, but it doesn’t get the job done. Now the real work has to begin. The last thing we should let this do is poison our commitment to renewables. Homegrown power is coming of age for communities, individuals, and facilities. The demand for renewables means new opportunities for rural communities, new jobs for rural communities, and new businesses keeping our rural communities alive.” [BigMedia emphasis]

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