Former gov’s green politics shop pushes friends in high places
A Colorado “new energy” initiative isn’t slowing down after coming up empty in its bid to see Ron Binz become one of the nation’s top energy regulators.
Binz withdrew his nomination Tuesday, but former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter still pushes his green agenda from the “Center for the New Energy Economy” (CNEE) at Colorado State University, funded by high-profile party donors.
While a focus on renewable energy is nothing new in the halls of academia, Ritter’s project is decidedly political. The CNEE provides “Political support as well as coordination with local industry and policy stakeholders” in enacting “legislative, regulatory and programmatic plans for clean energy development.”
State legislation backed by the center include Colorado’s Senate Bill 252, a highly divisive measure passed this year to increase “renewable” energy portfolio mandates and apply them to rural electric co-ops, whose member-owners were reluctant to impose the same on themselves. A summary of the bill on the CNEE website says the bill seeks to “to encourage the deployment of methane capture technologies,” without mention of its economic impact.
The center’s overtly political endeavors — which would be difficult to fund from the university’s general fund — were bootstrapped by the Fort Collins-based Bohemian Foundation, run by billionaire Democratic party donor Pat Stryker.
CNEE has close ties to Binz, the former Colorado Public Utilities Commission chairman appointed by Ritter in 2007, who was President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A bipartisan group of senators had blocked Binz, who has since decided to bow out.
Binz met a similar fate in Colorado. He resigned his state post after industry leaders and Republican lawmakers questioned his close relationship with Xcel Energy and personal involvement in crafting a law to shutter coal-fired power plants, prompting an ethics complaint.
After his resignation, Binz worked as a consultant to groups including Ritter’s CNEE, where he was a “senior policy adviser.” That relationship ended following Binz’s federal nomination, though Ritter had glowing words for him in a July press release.
“We are very proud of the leadership and vision Ron Binz demonstrated as chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.”
Binz’s nomination was controversial from the start, largely owing to his mixed record in Colorado. Supporters took the uncommon step of hiring a PR firm to generate positive publicity on his behalf.
Aside from the now-departed Binz, other CNEE policy advisers include former administration officials Jeff Lyng and Tom Plant, both of whom served in the “Governor’s Energy Office” — a new state bureaucracy created by Ritter.
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