Vail Valley Voices: Time for change on Holy Cross board | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Voices: Time for change on Holy Cross board

I’ve been dealing with change since the final year of the first George W. Bush administration in 2004, when I was shunted off to the Internet after the owners of this paper bought the Vail Trail out from under me and ultimately shut it down late last year.

So I got a four-year head start on the collapse of mainstream media, which provided me the necessary time (and desperation) to reinvent myself for the Digital Age. That’s included becoming the Western Slope reporter covering energy policy and politics for the Web-only Colorado Independent, and launching RealVail.com in 2007.

Now the Vail Daily has graciously offered me and my RealVail partner, Tom Boyd (also a former Vail Trail editor), a weekly column in which to pontificate on the pressing issues of the day and hopefully drive a little traffic to our Web site (did I mention it’s RealVail.com?).

I’m discovering a lot has changed since I last regularly appeared in print in the Vail Valley. First, Democrats control everything. Second, everything is in a state of economic shambles. And third, newspapers don’t actually pay writers anymore. That’s right, this column is an unpaid public service for RealVail.com (you may agree the price is right).

But some things don’t change, like the fact that I still bury my ledes, I always mention skiing, no matter the gravity of the topic, and coal is still king when it comes to cranking up our chairlifts, powering our plasma TVs and boosting the batteries in everything from our iPhones to our laptops here in Eagle County.

With the local papers understandably distracted dissecting their own distribution wars at the local Starbucks, you may not be aware that there is an important election this week to pick board members for the local rural electric co-op, Holy Cross Energy.

Most of you also may not know that you are members and part-owners of Holy Cross and therefore actually have the right — and obligation — to vote by 6 p.m., Friday, in that election for two contested board seats.

Why should you care? Well, if you voted in your last town council election, deciding the fate of politicians who these days, given the lack of major development applications, determine little more than which sidewalks to repair, you should probably take a little more active interest in the far more momentous decisions being made about local energy.

For instance, did you know that the current Holy Cross board of directors, with very little fanfare or public discussion, committed around $100 million – or 8 percent of the total cost – to the new Comanche 3 coal-fired power plant near Pueblo?

But the co-op that you are a member-owner of also just ran out of its annual $1 million allocation of rebate funds for home solar installations. Not an option again until 2010. However, Board President Tom Turnbull, who did not return my call seeking comment for stories I posted on RealVail.com, feels civilizations actually thrive in warmer periods.

No kidding, that’s in his Board President’s Report in the current newsletter on the Holy Cross Web Site.

So the Vail Valley Realtors upset about agenda-driven enviros from Aspen taking over our electric co-op and hiking up our rates (I’ve seen the e-mails) are correct: Aspen Skiing Company does endorse Turnbull’s opponent, Glenwood Springs pool and spa purveyor Marshall Foote, and rightly so.

But in the other contested race, Eagle County environmental policy planner Adam Palmer is running against longtime board member and Vail Realtor George Lamb. Hard to argue Palmer, former environmental director for Vail Resorts and founder of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, is a toady for Aspen SkiCo. Palmer gets my vote.

Both Palmer and Foote returned my calls (again, read their comments on RealVail.com). Lamb and Turnbull, a Carbondale rancher, did not. And transparency and publicity are key issues here. Decisions as significant as a $100 million investment in coal (33 percent of the Holy Cross load) for the next several decades should be vetted publicly.

Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, already gets 10 percent of its load from renewable energy, and is required by a statewide vote of the people (2004’s Amendment 37) to up that to 20 percent by 2020. That amendment exempted the state’s 22 rural electric co-ops (REAs), but the state Legislature in 2007 passed a bill requiring 10 percent renewables from REAs by 2020.

Given the likelihood (either from the current administration or a future one) of a carbon cap-and-trade system or an outright tax on carbon that would likely hit the dirtiest forms of energy like coal the hardest, there is a real urgency to diversify as quickly and responsibly as possible, just from a strict business standpoint.

There’s no reason Holy Cross can’t hit the same targets Xcel is meeting, especially in an affluent coverage area that includes Aspen and Vail and where member surveys have indicated consumers are willing to put environmental impacts ahead of costs.

As for thriving in periods of warmth, the mountain pine bark beetle seems to be the healthiest civilization locally, and ski seasons have been getting shorter on both ends since I moved here in 1991.

Without the ski industry and healthy forests, we become Idaho Springs — a relic of a bygone boom. Consider that next time you’re protesting your property value assessment. And vote for reasonable but more expedient change at Holy Cross Energy.

Holy Cross members who haven’t already mailed in their board election ballots need to do so immediately (they must be received no later than 6 p.m., Friday, June 5) or deliver them or vote in person at Holy Cross Energy headquarters, 3799 Highway 82, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602. Call (970) 945-5491 for more information or replacement ballots.