‘Spin’ on the coal issue is glaring | SierraSun.com

‘Spin’ on the coal issue is glaring

Prior to the recent public hearing regarding the Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s proposed 50-year contract for coal-generated electric power, Peter Holzmeister, the district’s general manager, sent out a letter to rate payers.

Upon reading that letter carefully several times I was in shock, but not disbelief, at the grossly misleading nature of the letter.

It certainly appeared to be designed to spin the facts ” ALA the Bush administration’s favorite strategy ” so that the PUD’s agenda would be agreed upon by rate payers.

I list below the most glaring misrepresentations in that letter:

l. The letter states that the cost per megawatt for this power will be $35. And that this is about half of what other contracts would cost us. When asked about this at the hearing, the representative from the power plant stated that the $35 was in today’s dollars.

In 2012, when the plant is on line, what will that rate be? The question regarding the rate was deftly skirted by PUD staff and the representative.

Clearly, as part owners of this plant, we will be liable for all costs incurred, which obviously will increase over the 50 year period. Clearly the $35 rate will increase dramatically over time.

We all want inexpensive power and this “spin” is designed to have us believe that this contract will guarantee that.

2. Mr. Holzmeister further states in his letter that we could sell our contract prior to the 50-year agreement. Later in the letter he adds that we could sell it if we can find a willing buyer.

Sounds easy, and that is what the intention of the letter is. What is not stated, “spin”, is that whatever the circumstances might be that would have us want out of the contract would probably be generally true, and thus, finding a willing buyer could be quite difficult.

The really scary part is that we might get stuck in a contract that no longer makes any sense.

3. The energy market is very volatile, as is stated by PUD staff, and is obvious. Recently the PUD found it necessary to buy out of a contract, which at the time of purchase appeared to make sense.

When energy prices dropped and we were tied into an expensive contract, the PUD spent many millions of dollars to buy out of that contract.

Do we really want to commit ourselves to 50 years in a market and a technology that is rapidly changing?

We are the owners of our PUD, and as such deserve openness and honesty. The lack thereof, particularly related to the current issue, is totally uncalled for.

It is clear that major changes are required in this “business as usual” approach by the PUD staff.

Given the rapid degree of change in technology as well as world view, the “box” in which the PUD has been operating must be opened up to incorporate a much fuller view and vision.

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