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Xcel plans for new renewable and fossil fuel power plants 

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Eric Galatas

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(Colorado News Connection) Xcel Energy says its latest proposal before the Public Utilities Commission will help Colorado reach it's clean energy goals - by adding more wind and solar power, more energy storage, and a new biomass facility. 

But critics are crying foul over plans to construct three new gas-fired power plants, one near Alamosa and two near Longmont. 

Ean Tafoya, director with GreenLatinos Colorado, said he is urging the commission to reject the plan to protect disproportionately impacted communities.

"These are the people who are defined under the state's Environmental Justice Act," said Tafoya. "Linguisitally isolated, low-income, the people who are living around these plants that are definitely disproportionately impacted, those are predominantly Latinos."

Xcel claims the new gas plants are needed to ensure grid reliability, and says its proposal will remove 740 megawatts of gas power in part by retiring contracts and some of its 14 existing gas plants. 

Alternative plans that add more renewables could save customers $29 million compared to Xcel's proposal in the first year alone, according to a new study. 

The PUC is expected to make a decision by year's end.

Leading global scientists have long warned that burning fossil fuels must end to avoid catastrophic impacts of climate change. 

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is over 85 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than coal-fired climate pollution. 

Tafoya said he opposes Xcel's plan to use ratepayer money to build new fossil fuel infrastructure.

"To invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build new plants," said Tafoya, "to me is a boondoggle that is about us investing in their technology, while they profit and send money to Wall Street."

Tafoya said he also worries that ratepayers will be on the hook for the cost of new gas plants long after they become stranded assets. He added that natural gas is not a safe source of energy.

"We know that when people use it in their households, that it causes the indoor ambient air to be as bad as it could be if you were standing next to a roadway," said Tafoya. "So these fuels when they burn and when you withdraw them from the ground, they all leave toxic legacy."