The Lamar City Council recently ratified Mayor Roger Stagner’s signature on a letter in support of ARPA’s efforts to put the Repowering Project back on line. The coal fired plant has been out of operation since early 2011. It is not currently able to produce electricity at full capacity, or achieve full output without exceeding the limitations of the state-granted air quality permit. ARPA and the Lamar Utility Board have been involved in litigation with WildEarth Guardians, a group concerned with environmental issues, mostly coal-fired power plants, regarding the emissions operation of the Repowering Project. Raton, New Mexico, a former ARPA member, sued to be released from its membership citing cost overruns on the project which converted a natural gas plant into a coal based operation. Trinidad officials are also giving thought to similar actions. The following is the letter asking Trinidad officials to delay taking action until the Lamar plant can be brought on-line following repairs suggested by the boiler manufacturer.
The following is the letter being sent to area municipalities.
May 17, 2012
Mayor John Rino
City of Trinidad
P O Box 880
Trinidad, CO 81082
Re: Recent correspondence from the City of Trinidad Dated April, 17, 2012
Dear Mayor Rino,
We are writing this letter in response to your letter referenced above and to take this opportunity to encourage you and the City of Trinidad to reconsider its lawsuit against the Arkansas River Power Authority (ARPA).
While we all wish things would have went better with the construction of the Lamar Repowering Project, we believe recent steps taken by ARPA are in the best interest of all the members, including Trinidad. Over the past few months ARPA has:
- Reduced its staff by half which resulted in a significant savings to the company.
- Entered into a short term power sales agreement that allows ARPA to access the current economical power markets.
- Began discussions with power providers and consultants regarding long term power supply options.
- Improved its financial position while reducing rates to ARPA members by over 6% year to date.
- Commissioned an Integrated Resource Plan that identified the most economic method for providing power supply to its members and identified two year and five year plans that will implement the planned course of action.
- Developed a workable solution with the Lamar Utilities Board to reduce labor costs for the Lamar Repowering Project while still ensuring that a sufficient number of trained plant employees will be available for compliance testing scheduled for later this year.
Furthermore, ARPA is working closely with the boiler manufacturer, Babcock and Wilcox, and a team of engineers to resolve the emissions issues currently plaguing the plant. Significant progress has been made, and testing done in the fall of 2011 showed substantial improvement. It is expected that final modifications to be completed later this year will resolve the remaining compliance issues.
Recent history has provided a stark reminder of why we are stronger as a group than if standing alone. Early Friday morning, April 27, a handful of tornadoes touched down in the Lamar area damaging rural homes, businesses and both transmission and distribution lines service the Lamar service area. By mid-morning Friday, crews from Las Animas, La Junta, and Springfield joined the Lamar line crews to repair the damaged systems. Power was restored early that evening.
This does not differ much from the effort the ARPA member crews demonstrated about this time a year ago when a fire destroyed both the east and west feeds into the Fort Lyons Correctional Facility, which was the largest customer of Las Animas Municipal Light and Power and the largest employer in the county at that time. While government officials fretted about whether to invoke evacuation procedures for the facilities that may have resulted in a permanent closing of the facility, ARPA member utilities worked together feverishly to re-build the 69kV transmission line that restored power to the facility and thus avoided the premature closure.
As you are probably aware, it was the ARPA mobile substation and a crew from the City of La Junta working with the City of Trinidad line crews that energized the mobile substation at Trinidad allowing much needed outage work to be performed safely and with little inconvenience to the Trinidad consumers.
There is little doubt ARPA has had its share of challenges over the past few years, but strides have been made in a direction that will result in stable rates and a reliable power supply. We encourage Trinidad to recognize the recent, positive developments and join its fellow members in a cooperative effort to resolve the outstanding issues and overcome the challenges that remain. Our dollars are better spent on meeting the regulatory and operating challenges facility electric utilities rather than for litigation expenses.
If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to let us know and we will do our best to address them.
Brad Simon, Mayor Pro tem, Town of Holly
Roger Stagner, Mayor, City of Lamar (signed)
Dusty Turner, Mayor, Town of Springfield
Don Rizzuto, Mayor, City of La Junta (signed)
Lawrence Sena, Mayor, City of Las Animas
Editor’s Note: It is not known at the time of this article if all other Mayors have received the letter to act on the signature request.