La Plata Electric Association should factor costs of coal mining into rates

Thursday, May 17, 2018 4:56 PM

I attended the LPEA annual meeting on May 12. I was dismayed that LPEA board president Davin Montoya used his position as meeting moderator to criticize "subsidies" for members who install photovoltaic solar. Other members have to pay more to make up the difference, he said.

During the member question/comment time, I asked if LPEA has figures on what electric rates would be if they actually accounted for externalized costs of fossil fuel extraction and use to generate electricity. Not really, we were told.

There are many externalized costs from oil and gas development, but for LPEA's purpose, we're talking coal. How many coal miners have died over the years in mine explosions? How many face an ugly early death from black lung disease?

Several years ago back East, a giant coal ash storage reservoir collapsed into the local river, leaving many communities dependent on bottled water.

Northwestern New Mexico residents breathe the pollution from the old coal-fired power plants west of Farmington. The American Lung Association attributes ozone levels in La Plata County mainly to those coal plants and oil and gas development.

Ignoring these sorts of externalized costs amounts to a huge subsidy to coal and the other fossil fuels. They are much more significant than any subsidies for PV solar. And that doesn't begin to account for the impacts of drought, wildfires, floods, and extreme weather events tied to dependence on burning fossil fuels.

Carole McWiliams