Photo: Craig Generating Station, James Michael Thomas, Flickr
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association – an obstacle to cheap, clean energy for far too long.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a large electric co-op serving Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Since the 1970s, it has developed considerable infrastructure for generating and transmitting electricity, with most of it tied to coal plants and coal mines. Tri-State rules the West with an iron fist, preventing its member co-ops from developing and purchasing cleaner, more affordable energy via restrictive contracts; lobbying on behalf of the coal industry; and contributing to more than 11.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution every year—equivalent to the amount released by 2.4 million cars!
WildEarth Guardians has embarked upon a campaign to compel Tri-State to transition to clean, renewable energy. Our goal: a cleaner planet and empowered people.
The Resistance Begins
Tri-State is the American West’s largest co-op utility company and one of the nation’s largest carbon polluters. Its restrictive contracts mandate member co-ops purchase at least 95 percent of their electricity from Tri-State, which limits members’ ability to develop their own electricity-generating facilities or purchase more affordable and cleaner energy from other providers. Furthermore, the steady stream of money means Tri-State itself has little incentive to develop cleaner, more affordable sources of energy.
But one by one, member co-ops are beginning to resist. In 2016, Kit Carson Electric Co-op in northern New Mexico bought out its contract, and other members are challenging or considering challenging the 95 percent constraint. Why? They realize they can obtain cheaper, cleaner, and—in many cases—more locally generated power than Tri-State is providing.
Tri-State’s economic position is tenuous. Its members are uneasy. We see an opportunity to expose these vulnerabilities and move Tri-State away from fossil fuels, empowering local renewable energy development. This is our path forward to diminishing the political influence of the fossil fuel industry in the American West, significantly reducing carbon emissions, and paving the way for rural energy independence and rural economic development.