Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) visits with Gov. Mark Gordon's energy policy advisor Randall Luthi September 20, 2023 at the Capitol in Cheyenne. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Lawmakers agreed Wednesday to change course on a raft of legislation that was hastily thrown together in recent weeks in hopes of heading off Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed 29.2% electricity rate increase.

After hearing pleas to proceed with caution, a legislative committee agreed to set aside some of the draft bills, including a moratorium on new wind and solar in electricity rates. The panel also decided to consider some new measures, including one that would apply a more formal, legal review of a utility’s long-range planning document known as an “Integrated Resource Plan.” 

Critics complained the legislative effort, led by the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, attempted to duplicate much of the technical and legal analysis that the Wyoming Public Service Commission already does when setting utility rates. Other measures, including a proposed moratorium on industrial-scale wind and solar energy, would simply make matters much worse for Wyoming ratepayers already looking at rising costs, those critics said.

“I would say I trust the Public Service Commission,” Black Hills Energy Government Affairs Manager David Bush told the committee Wednesday at the Capitol. “I would hope that you all would too and let them do their work.”

This chart compares PacifiCorp’s rates with its counterparts in the region. (Rocky Mountain Power)

Others echoed that message, including one of Rocky Mountain Power’s own biggest critics. The Wyoming Industrial Energy Consumers is a group of trona miners and oil and natural gas refiners, and they represent the largest block of Rocky Mountain Power customers in the state.

“We have very real concerns that [the draft bills] will actually have the unintended result of actually raising rates,” Holland and Hart Attorney Abby Briggerman, who represents WIEC, told the committee.

Though many WIEC members are in the business of producing and marketing fossil fuels, as electrical customers — some of whom pay more than $1 million in power bills — they see the value in affordable electricity. That’s why the group opposes a moratorium on wind and solar energy.

“In many instances, including the current rate case, renewable sources of energy have placed downward pressure on Rocky Mountain Power’s overall costs,” Briggerman said. “So by eliminating this potential source of generation for a period of time, the legislation would have the consequence of increasing power costs.” 

Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed rate case is a significant concern among members of the Wyoming Mining Association. In some instances, companies are looking at the possibility of having to pause projects or cancel them altogether, according to the association’s Jody Levin.

“I would encourage you to move forward with your overall review,” Levin told lawmakers. “Much of what we’ve heard today, of course, will not impact this rate case. But there will be future rate cases. And if future rate cases are proposing anywhere near what we’re seeing with this rate case, you will likely see industries no longer be able to operate in Wyoming.”

Influencing rate case?

Corporations Committee Co-chairman Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) said House and Senate leadership asked the committee to move up its work on utility legislation ahead of Rocky Mountain Power’s scheduled rate case hearing before the Public Service Commission on Oct. 25.

The committee’s agenda included a resolution “in opposition to Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed electric rate hikes” and declared, in part, “that we oppose Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed rate increase as detrimental to the well-being of our constituents and contrary to the public interest.”

The resolution, which was amended mostly for clarification, passed unanimously and will be submitted as a “public comment letter” for the commission to consider regarding the utility’s $50.3 million energy cost adjustment and its $140.2 million general rate case

“I would say I trust the Public Service Commission. I would hope that you all would too and let them do their work.”

David Bush, Black Hills Energy

As an independent, quasi-judicial authority, the commission is expected to conduct its business without undue influence from the powers of the executive or legislative branches of state government — particularly when it comes to an “open docket” such as Rocky Mountain Power’s two current rate increase proposals.

To adhere to the separation of power, commission Chairwoman Mary Throne said she and her staff intentionally avoided the Corporation Committee’s morning session on Wednesday when Rocky Mountain Power updated lawmakers on its rate cases. Regardless of what bills the committee chooses to advance, it likely won’t have bearing on the Rocky Mountain Power rate cases. The commission is scheduled to hear the matters beginning in October and December and issue its order before the Legislature goes into session in February.

However, Throne, a former state lawmaker herself, did have a message for the committee: “It would be my suggestion, generally speaking, to proceed deliberately to avoid the risk of doing any harm to ratepayers.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Jody Levin’s name. —Ed.

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. Wyoming lawmakers; what was your price for selling out your constituents. This is unacceptable behavior. See you at the polls.

  2. We’re being led down the primrose path ! When corporate or trade group reps say trust the PSC, you know what comes next ! Unelected bureaucrats should not be able to wield this type of power without legislative oversight. Residential customers and property owners are being attacked from different directions. We’ve got “Tax and Spend RINO’s” calling the shots so much, it’s starting to seem like Colorado . I, for one, do not want that ! And for the record, the U.S. Constitution DOES TRUMP the clean water act !

  3. The PSC will continue and has in the past done a great job. We don’t need a bunch of legislative yahoos trying to score points for reelection and shooting their mouths off. It is obvious that they understand nothing about how any of this works. As for the Freedom Caucus, they in general know absolutely nothing and they definitely need to stay away from this. They will, like always, make things worse, never better.

  4. Can we trust the PSC? Not if Rocky Mountain Power does. RMP knows that it does what they ask most of the time. There’s long been a revolving door between the PSC and the corporations it regulates; take, for example, former Commissioner Kristin Lee, who went to work for Qwest (now CenturyLink) after granting them many favors while on the Commission. Alas, we cannot put our trust in legislators, who pander to extraction industries, either. So, unless we vote our legislators out and replace them with people who actually represent us and require the PSC to do so, we can’t expect much help. Prices and the cost of living in Wyoming will increase, while rich corporations pad their wallets.

    1. ” Can we trust the PSC? Not if Rocky Mountain Power does.”

      Brett the agreements between these entities is well understood and fairly transparent. There are competent people in the process.

      The PSC cannot comment on some of the obvious reasons for the increase in energy costs and neither will RMP. I pointed out in a comment that the US has become the largest exporter of LNG in the world. We are competing with the rest of the world on where Wyoming gas will be used.

      There is a pipeline to thank for that.

  5. It’s not just the electricity folks. Ask the residents over in Newcastle about their water and sewer rate hike this last month. One county commissioner even attacked the town council at their meeting on Monday for what he claims is an over 200% increase in his monthly bill.

  6. The rate comparison chart included with this article raises one overarching question: Why the difference in rates? To what extent does Capitalist profit for corporation owners and dividends for stockholders affect rates? What would the rate be were all public utilities to be nationalized and the profit motive removed from the calculations? (Please note that I am not suggesting true Socialization of so-called “public” utilities; consumers would still be billed for their energy consumption to help preclude wanton wastefulness, but rates per kwh would be standardized while states would no longer be able to impede replacement of fossil fuels by non-polluting sources of power generation.)

  7. Only smart thing our legislature has done in recent history. If the public service commission is not doing their job then fix that. PSC has not even made a decision and people are flipping out. Turn you thermostat down and drive your car a little less.

    We have cheap gas and electric in Wyoming.

  8. I can’t help but think several key players in this situation are OKAY with jacking up people’s power bills. Wyoming needs to repatriate the power generation back to Wyoming control and away from Socialists bent on destroying America’s energy independence. A huge sea change is long overdue. Where is the Wyoming Freedom Caucus on this? What Liberal state violated the U.S. Constitution, under the Commerce Clause, to shut down natural gas shipments overseas ? Yep, that would be Washington!

    1. Mr. Rozman. The US is the largest natural gas exporter in the world, which is a driver in the price rise of energy in Wyoming.

      The State of Washington denied a permit for a coal terminal using the powers of the Clean Water Act. I opposed the use of this law for that purpose and the SCOTUS refused to parse whether the Commerce Clause usurped the powers of the CWA.