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Ron Binz the flipper

by Amy Oliver Cooke and Robert Applegate  

As Ron Binz campaigns to be confirmed as the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, much of the emphasis has been on his position as an activist for what he considers to be low or no carbon energy sources, predominantly Big Wind. (Forget the fact that wind requires an enormous amount of carbon emissions in the manufacturing of gigantic wind turbine.)

But Binz’s no carbon advocacy is hypocritical.

While Binz now advocates for lowering carbon emissions, he was instrumental in shutting down Colorado’s lowest carbon emitting power source, the Fort St. Vrain nuclear plant, which eventually converted to natural gas – a technology he now calls “dead end” when it comes to carbon emissions.  

As head of the Office of Consumer Council (OCC), Binz successfully argued before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that the power plant did not work correctly and that the shareholders of the company running the plant must pay for the capital costs rather than customers using the electricity.   (This is when Binz cared about ratepayers)

More stringent regulations and the burden of the extra cost upon the shareholders ultimately forced the plant to close as a carbon free, nuclear power source.   This “regulating to death,” as stated by previously employees of the plant ultimately came at the cost detriment of electricity customers who paid for the decommissioning and subsequent recommissioning as a carbon emitting natural gas plant.

His position on natural gas has flipped too. In 2010, as chair of the PUC Binz took a lead role in negotiating the terms of the controversial fuel switching bill HB 1365 titled “Clean Air; Clean Jobs Act.” At that time, Binz championed a mandated fuel switch from coal to natural gas. Apparently Binz thought natural gas was a clean fuel in 2010 but isn’t now.   Too bad ratepayers didn’t know that in 2010. It would have saved them more than $1 billion dollars, but then Binz’s concerns for consumer costs have flipped too.

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