Xcel Energy is pushing for a record $344 million rate increase it says it needs to build a smarter, greener electric grid. But consumer advocates and state regulators are pushing back over the price tag.
A major concern is that along with an earlier rate increase and other pending requests since the start of 2020, Xcel’s 1.3 residential million Colorado customers could see as much as a 20% increase in their bills.
At the core of the rate case are questions of how much it will cost to move to a cleaner, more resilient electricity system and who will pick up the tab.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has rejected a request for an expedited decision on the rate request and set a hearing in August to determine how to proceed in the case, while consumer groups are focused on the size of the request — more than double the company’s last rate case in 2019. Xcel is the largest electricity provider in the state.
“We’ve focused on our core principles leading the clean energy transition,” Alice Jackson, CEO of Xcel’s Colorado subsidiary, said in an interview. “These are all things we are ‘investing’ in and they do take dollars.”
Xcel is in the process of spending $4 billion on things such as wind farms, solar installations, battery storage, smart meters, cybersecurity and modernizing its distribution system, according to filings to the PUC.
The utility has also submitted a clean energy plan, as required by law, to the PUC that aims to cut the utility’s greenhouse gas emissions 85% from 2005 levels by 2030. [Emphasis mine — ed.]
Moving to ‘cleaner’ energy and reduced carbon emissions are necessary, said Gwen Farnsworth, a policy advisor with the environmental group Western Resource Advocates. But, she added, “we don’t want clean energy and the need for resiliency in the face of ‘climate change’ used as a blank check.”
The proposed rate hike would add $9.49 to the average residential customer’s bill and bring it to $83.22 a month. Small commercial customers would see a $14.49 increase to $126.62 a month. Each represents about a 13% increase.
That comes, however, after a 2020 residential rate increase of $1.03 per month and also with a pending request by Xcel to add $2.86 a month to residential electricity bills for the next two years to help recover the $650 million in increased fuel costs as a result of February supply disruptions from Winter Storm Uri.
In addition, there are several surcharges, known as riders, that could also increase monthly bills. Taken together all these increases and requests could lead to about a 20% increase in the average bill since the beginning of 2020.
“This could represent a 13% rate increase and coupling that with Storm Uri impacts plus the other new riders we can expect we could be looking at some very significant impacts on customers’ bills,” Commissioner John Gavin said at a recent PUC meeting. “That’s my biggest worry in this whole thing.”
“Here we are emerging from COVID and we have a shaky economy and we want to slam a 20% to 25% increase in rates on ratepayers?” Gavin said. “It is going to be a very, very important thing we deliberate.”
Xcel’s Jackson said that “65% of the investment is something the commission has already seen, walked through, approved.” This includes approving a $24.7 million wildfire mitigation plan and $100 million electric vehicle charging station plan.
PUC Chairman Eric Blank said that while he has voted on some of those individual programs, this approach was becoming “too piecemeal for me and too short term.”
“We’ve never had a record before us that quantified the cumulative impact of these rate approvals,” Blank said. “I’ve been frustrated by the lack of understanding and visibility into where we are going on rate impacts.”
It is something that Blank said he hopes long-term rate impacts over five to 15 years might be able to be addressed in this rate case.
COLORADO CITY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Tonight, officials in Colorado City held a board meeting to give residents an update on when running water will be restored in the town. Officials largely didn't have answers for residents that are searching for answers.
Yesterday, on the fourth day without running water, Colorado City residents received a mobile public safety alert warning of an imminent threat from a shortage of water. The problems began onTuesday when repairs were being made at the water treatment facility in Colorado City. A power line was accidentally cut, resulting in internet problems for the treatment plant.
Since then, access to water has been limited to Colorado City residents. For some, there's no access at all. "The last two days the pipes have been totally dry. When we noticed the volume of water decreasing, we started filling up the tubs and basins," said Brenda Mason, a Colorado City resident.
In a statement to residents, the Colorado City Metro Water District said tanks were low and to conserve water. Friday, Colorado City Metropolitan District echoed that sentiment in an emergency water conservation order.
WHEREAS, the Colorado City Metropolitan District suffered or there is an imminent threat that Colorado City will suffer from an immediate shortage in its supply of water which threatens the health, welfare, and safety of the inhabitants and visitors of the city and which requires immediate action.
AndNow Therefore Be It Resolved there is hereby declared an emergency Water Conservation Order.
All outdoor watering is prohibited until future notice. Enforcement will be per Rules and RegulationsBoard Chairperson, Neil Elliot
Colorado City Metropolitan District
In addition to the statement, a flyer was distributed door-to-door laying out the water restrictions and was is prohibited. Click here to view the flyer.
Thanks to funding from Pueblo County, the Pueblo Cooperative Care Center sent a portable shower trailer for residents in need. The mobile shower unit has three showers, all fitted with running hot water, as well as an area to use the restroom.
As of Saturday, Colorado City residents that live at elevations closer to the water tanks are completely without water, while some lower elevation areas continue to have access to water. That's where the trailer was stationed. The shower trailer will be back in Colorado City Saturday and Sunday at the community swimming pool.
For now, Metro Water District says there is not a timetable for when the tanks will return to running water capacity.
LITTLETON —Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader has sent a letter to the Foothills Parks and Recreation District (FPRD) clarifying any role his office would play in a possible future regulation to ban the concealed carry of a firearm by lawfully-permitted citizens on district-managed property.
“I have substantial concern in taking action against an individual who is otherwise acting in a legal and proper manner,” Shrader said in part in the letter.
Shrader’s office sent Complete Colorado, which broke the story outlining the district’s plan, a copy of the letter.
At issue is Senate Bill 21-256, which allows local governments to enact gun control laws within their jurisdiction that are “not less restrictive than state laws governing the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of the firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory.”
In other words, local governments may enact gun regulations only if they are stricter than those at the state level. A local government could not, for instance, expand gun rights or loosen existing restrictions under the new law, as one might expect under the traditional understanding of local control.
It was one of the many controversial measures aimed at restricting the rights of gun owners pushed through by majority Democrats in the 2021 session. What it also does, however, is allow local governments and special taxing districts to enact laws banning concealed carry.
Just three days after the governor signed the new law, FPRD staff asked its board to consider a ban on concealed carry of firearms on its facilities, which include three recreation centers, one 2-sheet ice arena, four indoor and four outdoor swimming pools and two indoor sports facilities, 68 park sites totaling more than 2,400 acres and including: four regional parks, 43 community and neighborhood parks, 21 greenbelts and two golf courses (totaling 54 holes). Additionally, Foothills manages six regional trail corridors totaling 14.9 miles for public use, and nearly 18 miles park trails.
But enforcement of the gun bans and concealed carry bans under the new law are different. While one section of the bill allows for criminal penalties, the concealed carry section only allows for civil penalties.
Although the FPRD, which encompasses 24.2 square miles exclusively in unincorporated Jefferson County, is normally policed by the sheriff’s office when criminal matters are present, Shrader’s letter said this is different.
“Such a resolution or rule “may only impose a civil penalty for a violation and require the person to leave the premises” Shrader’s letter quoted from the bill. “The law is clear that for special districts, a violation is a civil offense and not a criminal offense; therefore, my office will not enforce a resolution or rule that would ban a lawfully permitted individual from carrying a concealed handgun on Foothills’ property. Rather, Foothills would be solely responsible for enforcement of a resolution or rule, if enacted.”
According to Shrader’s letter, the board intends to discuss the proposal at its Aug. 24 meeting. Shrader asked that his letter be considered as part of the board’s decision-making process.
In the letter, Shrader said his office remains “committed to a strong partnership with the Foothills Park & Recreation District,” but regardless of who is responsible for enforcement, he does not support the ban.
“SB 21-256, and subsequent resolutions or rules enacted from it, will only serve to confuse law abiding members of the public who travel through or visit various jurisdictions,” Shrader said. “Community members should not be prevented from protecting themselves and their families as they travel throughout different areas within our communities. I am, and always will be, a proponent of responsible gun ownership. I will continue to promote safe gun carrying practices and continuing education for our citizens who lawfully possess handguns. The role of the sheriff is to keep the peace and to protect individual liberties. It is imperative that our resources remain available for responding to allegations of criminal activity.”
At the end of June, Mayor Michael Hancock announced a new housing and homelessness strategy as part of Denver's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. "An episode of homelessness should be no more than a brief, one-time circumstance, and we must do everything in our power to ‘stabilize’ our most vulnerable neighbors," Hancock said during a June 30 speech.
The five-pronged plan calls for buying hotels and motels and turning them into supportive housing, adding more safe-camping sites, expanding housing voucher programs, providing more rental assistance and eviction protection, and increasing the availability of housing.
At the same time, however, the City of Denver has continued its sweeps of unsanctioned encampments at a fast clip.
All of these moves cost money.
"The first thing that jumps out is that the City of Denver is making ‘investments’ in homelessness unlike it ever has," says Cathy Alderman of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, after looking over 2021 budget information regarding housing and homelessness spending that the city provided to Westword.
Denver earmarked around $91 million for housing and homelessness in its 2021 budget. That figure does not include over $100 million that the city has spent on housing and homelessness over the course of the pandemic using federal COVID-19 relief money, or the nearly $50 million that it has received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act's Emergency Rental Assistance Funds. The city still expects to spend tens of millions of dollars more on housing and homelessness using additional relief money.
Over $75 million of the budget's $91 million-plus goes to the Department of Housing Stability (HOST), a relatively new city agency that focuses on housing and homelessness. HOST doles out some of that money for the operation of emergency homeless shelters by nonprofit service providers; the department also spends federal grant money across a variety of categories, such as affordable-housing development and assisting individuals and families experiencing homelessness in moving toward transitional and permanent housing.
HOST will oversee around $27 million in the 2021 budget that also goes for affordable-housing development; that money comes from property taxes and a fee that developers pay for new projects.
A Point in Time survey conducted in 2020 showed 4,171 people experiencing homelessness in Denver, with around 1,000 of those people living in unsheltered settings. During the pandemic, those numbers have likely increased, with Denver officials estimating that the unsheltered number could be as high as 1,500 today.
Besides the allocations for HOST, the 2021 budget includes about $3.5 million for homelessness and housing services for Denver Human Services. That money is used for a variety of services, including those required by individuals needing short-term sheltering and food assistance.
The 2021 budget also allocates about $3.4 million for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment for "short-term crisis stabilization and transitional housing," according to the budget document prepared by the Department of Finance. And the Denver Public Library system, which has staffers who interface heavily with people experiencing homelessness, gets over a million dollars for paying employees and deploying technology geared toward people ‘experiencing’ homelessness.
The budget document shows $116,000 earmarked for four officers who serve on the Denver Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team.
Over the past two decades, Denver has steadily increased its budget allotment for housing and homelessness.
“When I first started with the city in ’99, we had Economic Development, and they had some housing dollars in there, but we didn’t have a whole agency focused on housing and homelessness," says Stephanie Adams, the city's budget director. "And, quite frankly, we had very little general-fund dollars allocated to housing and homelessness…"
Federal aid for housing and homelessness has decreased over the past two decades. Denver's increases have not only matched those decreases, but have gone far above, in order to become more responsive to the needs of ‘Denver residents’, according to Adams.
"It has been a wholesale change," says at-large Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who has spent much of her work as an elected official focused on homelessness and housing. "The things that we’re ‘investing’ in work. But we have more people ‘falling’ into homelessness or falling behind as housing costs continue to grow faster…"
At a time when Denver officials were cutting departmental budgets to cover the revenue gap resulting from the economic pains of the COVID pandemic, the city increased HOST's budget by over $2.5 million from 2020 to 2021.
The $91 million-plus figure doesn't capture all of the money that is spent on housing and homelessness.
For example, Alderman notes, "I think the piece that remains missing is what are the costs of the camping ban enforcements, because those are still spread out over different departments. And while we would certainly not say that that is an investment in homelessness, it is a cost that the ‘city’ chooses to take on…"
City councilmembers have asked the city how it quantifies the costs of clearing out encampments.
"There's just a lot of mechanics around this question that make it very difficult to say 'It’s this amount,' because it’s so dependent on the conditions that you’re encountering," says Julie Smith, a Department of Finance spokesperson. "In the course of city government, we don’t necessarily always track our budget expenditures in that fine of a detail…"
In December 2020, All In Denver, a nonprofit whose goal is to make Denver a "more equitable city" and whose board includes both allies and opponents of Mayor Michael Hancock, requested that the Denver auditor look at how much encampment sweeps cost the city.
Auditor Timothy O'Brien is planning to perform two audits related to homelessness later this year.
"The scope of these audits has not been determined; however, we may be able to consider the cost information [that] All In Denver has requested from the mayor," says Tayler Overschmidt, a spokesperson for the auditor's office. "Auditor O’Brien has already spoken to his team about his interest in considering this information if it is available…"
Alderman thinks that the Hancock administration would want to know how much sweeps end up costing the city. "I would think that they would want to understand from a cost-benefit analysis, if we’re enforcing the camping ban to the tune of X dollars, what is the benefit that we’re providing? My guess is that it’s pretty expensive, and we know that it’s unproductive," she notes, "and then compare that cost to what the cost of the safe-outdoor spaces have been."
But the sweeps will continue, and the mayor insists that the current cleanup schedule is unrelated to the All-Star Game putting Denver in the spotlight. "Unsanctioned encampments are not an option," Hancock said during that June 30 announcement. "House keys have more power to change lives than a tent."
Having secured a spot on the November ballot for a referendum to repeal changes made to the Denver Zoning Code related to group living, the advocacy group Safe and Sound Denver has now taken aim at safe-camping sites.
"We've heard a lot about ‘Temporary Safe Outdoor Spaces’ lately. Here's what we haven't heard," Safe and Sound Denver wrote in the first installment of a three-part July 1 email campaign, which focused on the overdose death of a 34-year-old woman at a safe-camping site in late December. "We have a question for the Mayor, City Council, SOS service providers, and media: Why haven't we heard about [this woman]? Where is the transparency and accountability in this big experiment?"
Westword had reported on the woman's death in a January 15 article on the safe-camping sites, before the medical examiner's investigation was complete. The autopsy report for the woman, who was living in one of the ice-fishing tents set up as part of an all-women safe-camping site next to the First Baptist Church in the 1300 block of Grant Street, indicates that she died of an accidental methamphetamine overdose.
In his June 30 announcement of the city's homelessness and housing strategy during Denver's pandemic recovery, Mayor Michael Hancock said that the city would be looking at expanding the safe-camping site program by adding more capacity across Denver.
And ‘the city’ was quick to offer a response to the Safe and Sound Denver campaign. "We are always deeply sorry to learn of the death of anyone experiencing homelessness, as we and our partners work tirelessly to help people find shelter, stability and dignity each and every day. Safe Outdoor Spaces have proven to be successful, clean and healthy alternatives to the dangers of living on the street. They do not result in an increase in police calls for service. They do not lead to increased criminal activity in nearby areas. They are not dangerous, and, as their name implies, they are safe," [Emphasis mine — ed.] says Sabrina Allie, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing Stability. "To portray Safe Outdoor Spaces, or this model of sheltering people in general, as unsafe is baseless and an attempt to exploit a tragedy for politics…"
Kathleen Cronan, executive director of EarthLinks, the organization that ran the Capitol Hill site until its lease ran out in May, says that the woman's death was "a tragedy for her, her family, her friends and our entire community. EarthLinks followed all normal protocols in contacting emergency personnel upon finding her unresponsive. Just as we asked at the time of her death, we ask that the community allow her family to be allowed to grieve her passing in peace."
"Obviously, the reality is that there are more than 20 million people in the U.S. who have substance-use disorder and the vast majority of those people are housed. People die of substance-use disorder every day, in housing, in unsanctioned encampments. That is a very unfortunate part of our society," adds Cole Chandler, director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, which set up Denver's three other safe-camping sites. "To try to suggest that a Safe Outdoor Space is not safe because of this one incident is inaccurate." [Emphasis mine — ed.]
Substance use is forbidden at the safe-camping sites, Chandler notes, though staffers don't actively monitor what residents are doing in the privacy of their own tents.
"Our approach is to serve people where they are and to offer people services," says Chandler. Chandler doesn't appreciate Safe and Sound Denver's current approach to the safe-camping ‘concept’. "To me, it felt like fear-mongering," he says. "It felt like they were insinuating and trying to imply that there was causality. 'Because of the Safe Outdoor Space, this happened.' "That is not true. I don't know that woman's story, but people have addictions, and our goal is to try our best to ‘support’ those people."
Safe and Sound Denver emerged last summer as a citizen advocacy organization fighting the proposed group-living changes to the Denver Zoning Code, which would increase the number of adults that can live together in the same home and make it easier for ‘service providers’ to set up halfway houses, sober living homes and homeless shelters across the city. After Denver City Council approved those changes in February, Safe and Sound Denver focused on successfully landing a referendum on the November 2 ballot that would repeal those zoning code changes. [Emphasis mine — ed.]
Safe and Sound Denver did not respond to requests for an interview.
Is there any part of our lives that the progressives under the Gold Dome don’t want to control, right down to how we carry our purchases home?
It’s the little bits of intolerance that help me understand their anti-liberty desires. Maybe because looking at their “small” acts of authoritarianism makes it easier to understand how they are so comfortable pushing the huge ones, like single-payer health care, price controls and banning energy.
It comes down to the fact that they are intolerant of individual choice. They hate that we all have different values, and we make choices based on those values.
Take smoking bans in private establishments. A gay bar is to be celebrated and rightfully defended. But if people want to freely associate at a bar over a beer, burger and cigarette, well that’s just too perverted for them. Ban it.
They need some type of intellectual cover for their institutionalized discrimination. They can’t just say what they really mean, “We know what’s best for you, and that’s for you to make the same decisions we do; we don’t smoke so neither will you.”
So, they come up with some cover — something like, “we’re doing it for the poor workers who have no choice but to work in that bar.” Like the 13th Amendment didn’t stop forced labor or prospective employees didn’t catch on to that they were applying to work in a bar with smoking.
It’s raw arrogance and using their governmental power to discriminate against marginalized people who don’t have power. They are treating people just like this country used to treat homosexuals, by outlawing their choices. And it should be seen for the hate it is.
For me it’s the tiny intolerance of people’s choice to use a plastic bag or straw that sets me off. I find it maddingly smug, discriminatory and dismissive.
The social pressure against plastic shopping bags is all about virtue signaling. Fine. Education and pressure away. That’s how free people get others to change minds. Bring your fabric shopping bag with the self-satisfied “we recycle” message on it to the store; it might change my mind.
But the legal mandate to take away your choice to use such a bag or straw is all about using raw political power to force others to virtue signal for the left’s cause.
Imagine if conservatives were in charge and passed a law that all homes had to fly American flags on official holidays. That is exactly what plastic bag bans, and taxes (now called fees to avoid a public vote), are.
House Bill 1162 is the crown jewel of this virtue signaling by gunpoint. This legislation prohibits stores and restaurants from providing plastic carry-out bags to customers. It bans restaurants from using foam containers to put your food in. It goes on to limit shopping bags to recycled paper and the store MUST charge a 10 cent (get ready for the magic word to avoid voter approval for a tax increase) fee for them.
Their intellectual cover for this intolerance? Saving the planet of course.
You might remember when environmentalists pushed for plastic shopping bags to save the trees that were used to make paper ones. But, as the motto of every social engineer goes — this time we’ve got it right.
But shopping bags make up an immeasurable fraction of a fraction of a fraction of plastic going into Colorado’s landfills, which safely entombs them. (Yep, no plastic straws from Colorado make their way into a sea turtle’s nose.) And those pushing this behavior modification bill know it.
Forget that the bags HB-1162 bans are 100% recyclable. Forget that this hits the businesses Governor Unemployment hurt the most with his lockdowns — restaurants and retailers. Forget that plastic bags played a role in fighting the pandemic, getting food and supplies safely to consumers. Forget that food prices are skyrocketing, and these extra taxes hurt the poor the most.
Remember, they know better than you. They know you shouldn’t re-use your plastic King Soopers bag to pick up your dog’s poop.
They know you should instead buy a package of new plastic dog-poop bags and take them home in the paper bag you had to pay 10 cents for.
HB-1162 is all about thought control so their next bit of coercion doesn’t seem as big.Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper recommended three candidates — Kenzo Kawanabe, Charlotte Sweeney and Nina Wang — to President Joe Biden to fill a vacancy on the federal bench in Colorado.
Whomever is chosen would fill Judge R. Brooke Jackson’s seat, which will open when he takes senior status in September.
“All three candidates have the temperament, character, and integrity to serve the people of Colorado with honor and distinction,” Bennet and Hickenlooper said in a letter to Biden.
The recommendations follow Bennet and Hickenlooper’s March announcement that they were forming an advisory committee to recommend qualified candidates for vacancies on the U.S. District Court in Colorado.
The candidate Biden selects will have to be confirmed by the Senate. Here’s a look at the three recommended nominees and their backgrounds:
Kawanabe is a partner at the Denver law firm Davis Graham & Stubbs, where he’s focused on litigation and intellectual property law. He was the first-ever general counsel for the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
Kawanabe has served on the boards of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, Colorado Legal Services, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice. He clerked for former Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary J. Mullarkey and is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Kawanabe received his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado and his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He’s a fourth-generation Coloradan who grew up in the San Luis Valley. His grandparents were sent to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.
Sweeney is a partner at Sweeney & Bechtold, where she represents public and private sector employees in discrimination, civil rights and wrongful-discharge cases. She helped draft Colorado’s 2019 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.
Sweeney has been named as one of the top 50 female attorneys in the state, and 5280 magazine called her one of the top lawyers in Colorado since 2014. She has served on the board of directors of the Matthew Shepard Foundation since 2016 and is a member of the Colorado LGBT Bar Association.
Sweeney received her undergraduate degree at California Lutheran University and law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Wang has served as a federal magistrate judge in Colorado since 2015.
Wang previously worked in a private practice, specializing in intellectual property law. She also served in the civil division of the state’s U.S. Attorney’s Office. Wang co-founded the Colorado Pro Bono Patent Initiative, served as president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado, and received the Minoru Yasui Community Service award in 2015.
Wang also clerked for Judge Peter Messitte on the U.S. District Court in Maryland and taught patent litigation and trial advocacy at the University of Colorado School of Law.
Wang received her undergraduate degree from Washington University and law degree from Harvard Law School. She immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan as a young child.