Incumbents challenged in energy election
ASPEN, Colorado – For the second year in a row, longtime incumbents on the Holy Cross Energy board of directors are being challenged in an election by opponents who are promoting renewable energy as a big part of their platforms.
The utility company’s board elections are usually an obscure affair. That changed last year when an incumbent board member and Rifle-area rancher was ousted by a Glenwood Springs businesswoman and green energy advocate.
This year, two of three board incumbents are being challenged. Board member Hal Clark of Aspen is running unopposed.
In the central district, incumbent Tom Turnbull, a Carbondale-area rancher, is facing a challenge from Marshall Foote, a Glenwood Springs businessman who lives in Carbondale.
In the northern district, incumbent George Lamb, a Vail real estate agent, is in a race with Adam Palmer, the building department official who oversees Eagle County’s green building code.
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Holy Cross elections are open to the energy cooperatives 43,000 customers in the Roaring Fork, Eagle and Lower Colorado River valleys. That includes many residents of Aspen, the midvalley, parts of Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.
Board members represent specific districts, but members can vote in all of the races.
The Aspen Skiing Co. is trying to spark interest in the election again this year. Last year it endorsed the two challengers, one of whom won. This year, the Skico is endorsing challengers Foote and Palmer.
Auden Schendler, Skico executive director of community and environmental responsibility, said the company believes the challengers will embrace the addition of alternative energy sources quicker than the incumbents. He stressed that the Skico has a good working relationship with Holy Cross Energy and supports the direction it is headed, but Skico officials believe it could head there quicker.
“Holy Cross and every other utility can move faster, so the status quo isn’t where we want to be,” Schendler said.
Holy Cross’ direction is important to the Skico, Schendler said, because a power company’s energy sources are a major factor in a business or household’s carbon production. The cleaner the energy provided, the less emission produced by a business like the Skico, he said.
Holy Cross wants 20 percent of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2015. It reached 12 percent last year. While legislation in Colorado requires larger energy providers to mix renewable energy sources into their portfolio, Holy Cross is exempt from the law as a small co-op. Its push to increase renewable sources is voluntary.
Foote distanced himself somewhat from the Skico’s endorsement. His desire to see an increase in renewable energy is tempered by a businessman’s approach of fiscal prudence, he said.
“I’m not a pure environmentalist saying we have to change the world right now,” Foote said. He stressed that he is not running to say what Holy Cross is currently doing a “horrible” job. He said he wants to get involved in setting the direction of the utility and believes he can make contributions as a business operator. Foote is a partner in Colorado Poolscapes.
He said it is critical for Holy Cross to explore a more diversified mix of power and not rely heavily on coal-fired plants. He is convinced that coal plants, which produce high carbon emissions, face an increasing level of government regulation. Therefore, power produced by those plants is likely to get more expensive. Holy Cross needs to make sure that “decisions made today are good for 15 to 20 years down the road,” Foote said. “There are going to be ramifications if you’re not putting your fingers into as many [sources] as possible.”
Turnbull didn’t return telephone messages Thursday or Friday from The Aspen Times. Candidate profiles are included in the ballots being mailed to Holy Cross members.
The ballots, which will arrive at the homes of members within the next few days, have to be mailed back to Holy Cross Energy prior to the annual membership meeting on Friday, June 5.