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Tri-State appeals FERC ruling on renewables

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The dispute between DMEA and its wholesale power supplier entered a new phase last week with the filing of an appeal before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, D.C.

In that appeal, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association asked FERC to reconsider a June 2016 order striking down a Tri-State penalty imposed when DMEA buys from renewable resources. Tri-State had sought to impose the penalty, called a "lost revenue recovery fee," on wind, solar, hydro, and other renewable purchases -- notwithstanding the fact that federal law requires those purchases.

"DMEA is disappointed by Tri-State's decision to appeal last month's ruling," said Bill Patterson, DMEA board president in a press release issued by DMEA last week. "FERC has now said twice that DMEA is obligated by federal law to purchase from local renewable generators. We had hoped that Tri-State would commit itself to partnering with DMEA in complying with the law instead of resisting it."

With this appeal, called a "request for rehearing," Tri-State will try for a third time to persuade FERC that DMEA is incorrectly interpreting the requirements of a 1978 federal law called the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). In a 2015 FERC ruling, the Commission declared that DMEA must buy from renewable generation projects at negotiated rates under PURPA -- regardless of whether the purchases are allowed under Tri-State customers' wholesale electric contracts. That 2015 ruling was followed by last month's ruling that Tri-State's retaliatory measures to penalize DMEA for those purchases were an attempt (in the words of FERC) "to undermine the Commission's prior order" by "imposing financing burdens" on DMEA that would inhibit DMEA's required renewable purchases.

"We are confident in our legal position and in our belief that federal law does not allow Tri-State to penalize us for following PURPA," said Patterson. "We owe it to the DMEA membership and the communities we serve to keep pressing this issue," he said.

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