Co-op hears complaints about peak-demand rates

Not a rate increase, officials say

March 27, 2019 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (0)

A 1937 REA poster by artist Lester Beall


The San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative heard complaints from perplexed residents of Crestone-Baca struggling to understand the new rate structure that takes effect on April 1. Despite pleas for a delay of the effective date, the board took no action except to enact a 30-day delay in enforcement of  the use of smart meters by those customers who have refused them in the past.

The smart meters, already installed at most homes, record and transmit the running consumption of electric power, beeping radio frequency waves to Monte Vista.

The new rates will appear first on May bills based on April consumption. The change will cost more for consumers that the co-op decided are not paying their fair share of the non-profit costs of providing electric power.  Targeted are people with solar panels and second-home owners, among others, the raucous meeting disclosed.

The “Dear Member” notice sent on March 12 came as a surprise for the Crestone residents, although the rate change was telegraphed at the end of the monthly column by Chief Executive Loren Howard in the co-op’s February “Newsboy” mailer.

Matie Belle Lakish, former chair of the Baca Grande POA, waved the notice at Howard, protesting that it was incomprehensible. “Why don’t you get somebody who knows how to write?” she said. 

Residential bills right now show a fixed charge plus a calculation of charges per kilowatt power used during the month. The new bills, apparently varying with rate class, will show a fixed charge  plus a kilowatt hour charge, plus a surcharge per kilowatt (not kilowatt hour) for the highest 15-minute spike in demand during the month, regardless of total usage, and for some customers  another surcharge per kilowatt for the highest monthly spike during the hours of 12 noon to 10 p.m. on any day except Sunday.

Some teachers explain the difference between kilowatts and kilowatt hours with the simile of a garden hose. A KW is like the water pressure and a KWh is like the amount of water used. 

Providing electricity requires more available kilowatts the more household appliances are turned on at once. 

So to keep the demand spikes lower, you need to cut down the number of electric things operating at the same time. The co-op’s innovation of off-peak KW “demand” tells you to save money by using more power between 10 p.m. and 12 noon the next day (or on Sundays).

Daniel Frelka of Crestone protested what he called “the life-style change you are imposing on everybody. I don’t want to roast a chicken and find it costs me 50 bucks.”

Wade Lockhart of Crestone, who is running for the co-op board, pointed out this affects the bathroom showering by those who have on-demand water heaters. Conventional tank heaters can heat up during the night, providing hot water any time at lower costs than the more efficient instant heaters.

Lockhart also engaged Loren Howard in a conversation about people who are frequently away from home in Crestone, including second-home owners. They pay little more than the fixed charge when they use little power. Under the new rate structure they would pay for the highest spikes no matter how much they use. 

Lori Nagel of Crestone found this incredible. “Why not just pay for what we use?” she asked Howard, who responded it was complicated, involving costs of always being prepared for peaks. 

Nagel said, “This is just a fancy way to increase rates.” Howard responded this is not a rate increase, and board members chimed in on this theme. Mark Rierson of rural Center explained it is an equalization because some consumers (called members) are subsidizing others. If the revenue from residential customers is now $1 million a year, it will still be $1 million after the rate change, he said.

Rierson added, “Nothing lasts forever. Things change over time. The industry as a whole is changing. Savings are not as great as ten years ago.”
The co-op and 43 others in the West buy wholesale from Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which relies on coal-fired power plants such as the 100-megawatt one at Nucla, CO, due to be closed down in 2022 and a 472-megawatt unit at Craig, CO, closing in 2025. A quarter of Tri-State power sources are described as “sustainable” such as solar photo-voltaic generation.

Board member Scott Wolfe of Alamosa said, “We did this as a business decision, helping our business run better.” He told Nagel not to “panic,” that it was not a rate increase but a correction. “Some people under-pay, some over-pay.”

Board chair Cole Wakasugi of Blanca said, “Our biggest responsibility is to protect our co-op.”

There was no response on the issue of smart meters, on the minds of most of the outspeaking Crestonians. Several cited studies about the adverse effects of rf radiation. Several told personal stories of being stricken upon contact with smart meters. 

Two years ago a number of Crestonians opted out of smart metering, choosing to pay more for their traditional meters that have to be read visually.  But this op-out agreement is now discarded because smart meters are essential for the new rate structure. Lars Skogen of Crestone said, “Our opt-out does have legal weight,” implying that the abrogation could be challenged.

Russel Preister and others called smart meters an invasion of privacy because they might make it possible for somebody to track the behavior of residents, such as when they watch television or cook.

Most protested the short notice. Nagel asked, “What was the urgency?” Frel said it left no time to respond, “Just: boom!” 

Board member Wolfe pointed to the February Newsboy as early notice. But the chief executive’s column did say, “An adequate explanation of how this three-part rate will work takes more than the space for this month’s Newsboy article, so stay tuned for further articles on this change in rates.” There have been no further articles.

(A personal disclosure: In 2004 I designed ETS heaters into my Baca home, which was about to be built. The system sets up off-peak electrical heating of heavy firebricks in the units, which release heat by blowers as needed, night and day. The same for the water heater. The deal let the co-op use its excess capacity — the spinning Tri-State generators — at night and at certain times during the day. When there was a wide difference between off-peak and on-peak rates early on, the savings were substantial as compared with traditional electric baseboard heaters, but in recent years the spread in rates has become narrower, and the co-op has stopped providing maintenance of ETS units, although it stocks parts such as heating coils for private electricians to purchase for repairs. Under the new rate structure ETS heating might be comparable to wise use of baseboard heating. We shall see.)

 This article has been revised to correct an error in the effective date of the rate change.

The Unheard Hearing

Regarding the separation of church and science

October 8, 2018 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (0)

By Larry Joseph Calloway

Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist, was a stranger in that strange land, the United States Senate, and so her impromptu response to the two most definitive questions by the Democrats was strange. 

When Sen. Feinstein asked how she was sure her sexual assailant was Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Ford responded: 

“In the same way that I’m sure I know I am talking to you right now. It’s just basic memory functions. And also just the level of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain that sort of encodes — that transmitter encodes — memories in the hippocampus.  And so trauma-related experience, then, is kind of locked there, whereas other details kind of drift.”

And when Sen. Leahy followed up with the question, “What is the strongest memory of the incident, something that you cannot forget?” Ford responded:

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”

It occurred to me that these Spockian responses could be explained psychologically as Ford’s distancing herself from the terror of reliving an attempted rape when she was 15, or formally that as a witness to power she was suppressing her tears. In Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land,” (Exodus 2:22) there are respected professionals called Witnesses who can be called to testify exactly and relevantly what happened without emotion or ego. 

Like Ford.  Unlike others in this — to use the common word for anything fictional non-fictional on TV — show. She was the only scientific thinker in it.

The most definitive question from the other hemisphere of this surgically divided brain of the American state, the Republicans, was by Sen. Kennedy to Kavanaugh: “Do you believe in God?”

“I do,” said Kavanaugh without hesitation.

Kennedy followed by asking him if he could look him in the eye and swear “before God and the nation” that all he had said was true. He did.

Two things about this exchange impressed me. The first, of course, is that no American politician regardless of party would ever declare in public that they do not believe in God. This cultural absolute is powered by the tyranny of the majority. Non-believers can lie without worrying about the Decalogue dicta to not take the name of the Lord in vain or bear false witness any more than they worry about committing adultery.  For, if God does not exist all things are lawful (Dostoyevsky).

The other thing is that Republicans do not in practice honor the “separation of church and state,” as generations of constitutional lawyers have called it. This is one explanation how we got a Supreme Court with a majority of Catholic-trained men, two of whom went to the same small Catholic prep school near Washington. 

And this also explains why so many Protestant Christians, with unusual ecumenical spirit and prayers about God’s will, supported the Republican candidate for president, ignoring Trump’s inconvenient record of adultery and other probable sins.

“The Great Separation,” as Mark Illa, a historian of political theology, calls the principal behind the unique Exclusion Clause in the American constitution, goes back to the 17th Century philosopher Hobbes, who was reacting to the ravages of 150 years of religious wars. Instead of dealing with the use of religion by politicians, Hobbes changed the subject. Another philosopher at the birth of science, Spinoza, dealt with it. Before turning to freedom of thought, his political-theological essay advocates studying the Bible in the same way you would study the natural world. Sweeping away the superstitious revealed truths of religion is necessary and sufficient to establish free thought and expression in the world.

Spurned as an athiest, the sephardic jew Spinoza was formally shunned by his synagogue and threatened with death by others in Amsterdam. Four centuries later, a scientist who told the truth was similarly estranged. I was saddened.

83 Per Cent Eclipsed At Crestone, CO

Until the 17th Century the Universe was global

August 24, 2017 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (0)

Writer Takes Refuge In “Nada”

My review of

March 30, 2013 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (3)

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Cloistered near Crestone, stranger in a strange land, sleeping or perhaps not, Beverly Donofrio suddenly feels “a weight on the mattress, a tug at the sheet.”  Then, in the words of her memoir, “The rapist hovers over my bed, and I wake myself screaming.” Her cell-size cabin at Nada, a Carmelite Catholic hermitage, is isolated. Nobody can hear. “For a while, evil remains a presence in the room as real as a gaping door you know you’ve shut.”

Her reaction, which might come as a surprise to readers of her first memoir, the bestselling “Riding In Cars With Boys,” was prayer. She prayed to her beloved Mary, and she prayed the sacred words that monks sing to open each of their  “hours” in Benedictine monasteries: ”God, come to my assistance.  Lord, make haste to help me.” She prayed for two hours until she was blessed with sleep.


Viking Press released her book in March with a long title – “Astonished: a story of evil, blessings, grace, and solace.” It comes at a time of worldwide focus on issues in the Church including the status of women in the patriarchy. It coincides with recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of the women’s movement. But it not polemical. It is a heartfelt testimonial by a writer with the verbal sensibility of a poet and the storytelling skill of a crime novelist.



“Stand Up That Mountain”

Review of a book that’s not being reviewed

October 2, 2012 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (0)

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I read slow when I get emotionally involved in a book, and “Stand Up That Mountain” by Jay Erskine Leutze was slow reading for me.  Released by Scribner’s in June, it has not yet been mentioned in the major reviews and that’s a goddam New York shame. But — what’d I expect? — it’s about mountain people.

Not your Everest climbers and that sort of high achievers with money. It’s the true story of a legal  fight to save a mountain in North Carolina near the Appalachian Trail from becoming a gravel pit. Mountain people? Appalachian Trail? Environmental law? Naww, the  reviewers have heard all that before (or think they have).

I never would have known about the book except for an alert librarian in a mountain town, Telluride, CO. (Yes, I know. We’re talking two different kinds of mountain people here. More on that later.) She put the book in the centre of a display rack of recommended new acquisitions. I went home to my own little mountain town and bought it on Kindle.

Three reasons this book took my heart away to those fertile mountains not half as high as mine here in Crestone:

  1. It’s good. Leutze is an artful writer and his story is personal. You can scan through it to find out who wins, but writing this careful justifies careful reading.
  2. It’s true — about a case that involves all the forces and characters in current American battles over conservation of wild lands.
  3. With a light touch, he does what I seldom accomplished in years as a state capitol reporter in New Mexico (a state similar to North Carolina in provincial corruption and legal idiocies): he  makes a complex legal dispute exciting as it makes its way to the appellate courts.
  4. He gives a voice to the people of the Appalachian Mountains, lets them speak in their own poetic idiom. They are my father’s people (see the post that follows this). My grandfather and grandmother both were at least the third generation of Calloways in the mountains around Mars Hill, NC, about 50 miles down the present U.S. 19E from the main setting of this story.

Environmentalists — and I don’t think Leutze uses this word — have adopted a cliche-ridden institutional style that matches their opponents’ news releases. Both sides are boring us into indifference. (As with reviewers who’ve heard it all before.) Leutze is authentic and original. He lived this story, is the protagonist here. We know how he felt.

But Leutze writes a fresh and fearless prose. In despair at one point he thinks the cause  is lost “because the legal terrain and the cultural terrain favors business over nature, the tangible, the measurable, over the experiential. . . . Leaving a place alone? Letting it be because it is lovely, natural, or simply because it functions in a coherent and perfect way? There is no market for that. No profit to show, no quarterly result to report.”

But he balances his own eloquence with dialog that comes from growing up with the Mountain idiom: “rurent” for ruined, “tar” for tire, “hits” for it’s.  The “stand up” in the title is Mountain for “stand up for” or “stand behind.”  Ollie, the self described  “mountain girl” who is a central character,  reacts to his use of a Latin legal term by saying, “Why don’t you people use regular words?” there is no doubt he agrees with her.

After Luetze graduated from North Carolina Law School, he chose nature over business, moving to a cabin in the woods in the mountains of Avery County near the Tennessee border. His life of walking and fishing, planting and foraging, was peaceful until the blasting began. His education became his weapon.

He is a new kind of mountain man, the sort you will find in Telluride, a small town with an assessed valuation equal to that of some cities. The new library where “Stand Up That Mountain” was promoted is, like the high school, a new stone structure that most cities would not afford. There were miners in Telluride 40 years ago, but they are long gone and the main mine has been “reclaimed” and its tailings subdivided. The community is so fiercely dedicated to conservation (and so wealthy) that it raised some $53 million to buy off a developer who had big plans for the pastures that border the last condominiums on the valley floor.

I wondered if Telluride might be the model for the future of the Appalachians of western North Carolina, once they are conserved.



When I was a boy one of my father’s sisters gave him a tree, a sapling, and we planted it in the back yard in Denver. He said it was a black walnut from the mountains of western North Carolina, which are practically owned by the Scotch-Irish, his people. That gnarly stick of a tree survived from winter to Colorado winter, growing a few feet a year in the rich alluvial soil of our back yard.


Baca Blog

August 15, 2010 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (0)


WILD RASPBERRIES: They  are  were red and ripening in the high country above Crestone-Baca, whole bushes of them. I have heard its the best season in years. This photo was taken Aug. 13 at 9,000 feet in one of  the canyons.

PRIMARY ELECTION: Saguache County Commissioner Linda Joseph narrowly defeated challenger Tim Lovato in the Democratic primary, 403-388. County Clerk Melinda Myers brushed aside challenger Christine Wilson, 505-256. The Democratic primary usually is decisive, although Joseph faces Republican Steven Carlson in the general election.

In the Democratic U.S. Senate race: Sen. Michael Bennett (the statewide winner) 315, Andrew Romanoff 455. Romanoff, the former House speaker, campaigned in Crestone.

Saguache Republicans voted with the statewide majority in the Senate race: Ken Buck (the Tea Party-backed candidate) 240, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton 132. But for governor, Republicans in the county favored the loser, Scott McInnis, over Dan Maes, 225-136. Maes faces Democrat John Hickenlooper in November. (Hickenlooper, unopposed in the Democratic primary, campaigned at the Crestone Music Festival.)

(Results from the Valley Courier and the Denver Post)

HIROSHIMA-NAGASAKI: Maybe it was the most poignant song sung during the Crestone Music Festival weekend. A spontaneous group of Americans and Japanese visitors at lunch during the Shumei monthly sampai sang “Song of the Hibokaska,” in Japanese. There were tears. I was one of the singers.

Hibokaska is a word for survivors of the atomic bombs. Sunday fell between the 65th anniversary dates of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The brief outpouring was the synchronistic inspiration of Matthew Crowley of the Shumei International staff.

The synchronicity was this:  just after finding the song on a page in the papers of his late mother,  a nuclear protester in her time, Matthew read my re- posting here on the 60th anniversary. He gathered a few of us, we rehearsed briefly, went to lunch, then stood and sang. The 50 people at lunch stared  in deep silence .

The refrain: “Yu ru zu ma chi. Gem ba ku o.” Meaning, it must not happen again.

NO MORE YOGA BEAR: The Crestone-Baca Property Owners Association board is proceeding with its  campaign to make the Baca Grande Volunteer Fire Department more businesslike. An employees handbook goes into effect Aug. 15, the  personnel rules affecting not only employees but also volunteers (some of whom don’t like the way they were left out of the adoption process). And, the Kundalini Bear is being taken down, stripped off, chased into the woods, to be replaced by. . . well, the new (businesslike) logo has not yet been adopted.  What will go next? The “Village Witch” directional sign?

MORE BUSINESS: Ceal Smith sent this photo to her substantial email list.

Tower of power

Project proponent: SolarReserve  (see: Technology: 200 MW, PowerTower, 24 X 28 x 25′ high tracking mirrors with 656-foot tower in the center of each circle. Two circles eventually installed.  Heat storage from liquid molten salt solution kept in above ground tanks. Location: 6,200-acres on (or near?) Highway 112, about 8-10 miles northeast of Center, CO .  Water:1,000 Acre Feet per circle.


December 24, 2009 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (0)

self photo by larry calloway, remote graphcs by colleen rae

Albatross, Bear Print, Broken Jar, Hermit, King’s Horseman, Empty Road

A year-ender on my lucky travels east and west, north and south in 2007

December 31, 2007 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (0)

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Journalists seeking time off for the holidays file long summaries of what they covered during they year. The year-enders, as they are called in characteristically unimaginative journalese, fill space in the absence of news. But like long family letters in Christmas cards they usually attract only those readers who are mentioned in them. (more…)

Big Constitutional Confrontation On The Right Of Privacy?

Why Don’t You Guys Just Leave Us Alone?

May 15, 2006 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (0)

President Bush said, in defense of his National Security Agency’s access to millions of phone records, “The privacy of all Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities.”

Right. (more…)

Faith and Reason, Reason and Faith

Ghost World II

April 4, 2005 in THE KITCHEN SINK | Comments (0)

When John Paul II died the TV commentators breaking the news seized upon a fact in his biography that I had missed all these years: in his youth in Krakow he had done some stage acting, including courageous underground performances during the Nazi occupation.