Wyomingites came out in force Thursday to tell the Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC) they’re outraged at renewable energy policies they say are driving up electricity costs.
Rocky Mountain Power, the state’s largest utility, requested the PSC approve two rate increases that combined will result in a more than 30% increase to electricity bills for Wyoming residents and businesses.
The PSC held a public input session in Casper to get feedback from public officials and residents on the proposed increase.
Wyomingites eager to voice their thoughts on the increase packed a room at the Thyra Thomson State Office Building in Casper.
PSC Commissioner Mary Throne apologized there wasn’t a larger room, and a separate spillover area had to be set up to make room for it.
Rep. Jon Conrad, R-Mountain View, said that one of the main reasons the utility wants the increase is that it doesn’t have enough power to supply itscustomers. Because the company is relying more extensively on intermittent energy from wind and solar, it has to buy power on the market.
“Wyoming is paying for the demise of coal-fired generation. That is the mineral that built this state,” Conrad said.
Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, said the increases are due to a “radical left-wing agenda.” The company decided to invest heavily in unreliable energy rather than baseload power, such as coal and natural gas.
“That was a management decision. They made that choice,” Stith said.
He asked the commission to reject the utility’s request and have the company bear more of the risk for its decisions.
Rep. Tomi Strock, R-Douglas, said the increase would hurt Wyoming businesses, many of which are “mom and pop” operations that can’t absorb the increases. She said that farmers would have trouble paying for the cost of powering irrigation.
“A lot of this is really affecting us. It’s going to kill Wyoming,” Strock said.
Secretary of State Chuck Gray criticized the PSC for not pushing back against President Joe Biden’s “war on coal, oil and gas.”
The commission, he said, could have taken opportunities to require the company invest in baseload power on conditions for approval of transmission lines.
“It's about time for this commission to stand up to Rocky Mountain Power,” Gray said.
Leah Juarez, the mayor of the town of Mills, said the town spends $16,000 providing water services. The increase will raise that to $40,000.
She vowed to oppose further wind development if these rising costs will be the price of it.
Casper Mayor Bruce Knell said the company was asking for a larger increase than it expected to receive. He compared this strategy to a used car salesman trying to sell a car for $10,000 expecting to be talked down to $7,500.
“The way they are doing business is not appropriate. This is a $134 billion company, and they’re doing business like they’re selling a used car,” Knell said.
Many residents spoke out against the increase as well. This included small business owners, farmers and ranchers, and retirees on fixed incomes.
Rozmaring Czaban, a resident of Casper, asked for a show of hands for anyone who opposes the increase. Almost all hands went up.
She said the cost of running a farm leaves little room for profitable operations as it is now. The increase will make it even worse.
“On behalf of the farmers and ranchers in the state, I ask you to consider the impact this will have on them,” Czaban said.
Garvin Durrant, who owns a small gunsmith shop in Casper, said the increase will hurt his business, and that if the PSC approves the increase the commissioners will be “lockstep in line with Biden’s war on small businesses.”
“Rocky Mountain Power doesn’t deserve this increase. We can’t afford it. I certainly can’t afford it,” Durrant said.
Steve Mitchell said he’s a retired oil and gas employee and that Rocky Mountain Power is not being transparent and providing the public enough information to understand the reasons for the increase.
“They’re a monopoly. Nobody competes with them,” he said, urging the PSC to deny the increase.
Andrew Schneider, a Sierra Club volunteer, disputed that renewable energy was the cause of the rate increase and said the utility should save money by decreasing its reliance on natural gas.
He said he opposed the rate increase as it would cause serious hardships for the nonprofit.
“Who do you want me to lay off when this rate increase goes through?” Schneider said.