April 16, 2019
Denver, CO – The Colorado State Senate Transportation and Energy Committee today voted 5-to-2 to advance SB19-236, Sunset Public Utilities Commission (PUC), a bill to renew the PUC for the next seven years and hold utility companies more accountable to ratepayers. The legislation is sponsored by Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.
The PUC is responsible for providing oversight of Colorado’s utilities and protecting Coloradans from high utility costs. In seeking to address climate change, SB19-236 will direct the PUC to make sure that the costs of pollution are given full consideration as part of utility planning. The bill also directs the PUC to implement rules requiring regulated utilities to file distribution system plans to ensure safe, reliable, and affordable services that satisfy customers’ changing expectations, plan for the future, and take advantage of technological advancements that benefit customers.
“Southern Coloradans know all too well that the Public Utilities Commission has not always lived up to its mission to protect ratepayers from high utility costs,” said President Garcia. “Our part of the state faces some of the highest costs along the Front Range, and that is why I felt it was so critical to be a sponsor on this bill so that southern Colorado has a seat at the table.”
“Given the pressing need to address climate change, it is imperative that we are making forward-looking investments in renewable energy and accounting for the cost of pollution in utility planning decisions,” said Majority Leader Fenberg. “The changes we’re making today will modernize the framework of the PUC to better regulate the rapidly evolving energy market that we see today.”
Given southern Colorado’s history with investor-owned utility companies and how they impact employment, this legislation would also require such companies to file a workforce transition plan when retiring a particular power plant facility in order to support job transitions for Colorado workers.
The committee also voted to approve Amendment 06, an amendment offered by President Garcia that would require the PUC to hold a public hearing to solicit public commentary, investigate rates in regions that are higher than the state average, and identify ways to reduce them.
“I have advocated for amendments that require the PUC to solicit public testimony and conduct a survey of utility rates to identify why costs are so high and find ways to bring them down,” said President Garcia. “I am confident that the adjustments we have made to the bill will make sure that the PUC is an advocate for Coloradans, not investor-owned utility companies, and ultimately save Coloradans money on their utility bills.”
For more information on this legislation, please visit https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/SB19-236.