The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the three appointed commissioners find themselves under even more scrutiny. This morning the Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously to proceed with a full blown audit of the embattled commission.
Last month we reported that Senators Scott Renfroe and Steve King, members of the audit committee, sent a letter requesting the PUC audit. The State Auditor’s Office completed its “30,000 foot” preliminary analysis, a letter from Diane Ray of the State Auditor’s Office recommends a full audit that will cover the following questions:
1. Has the PUC established and implemented adequate policies and procedures to ensure the PUC Commissioners’ regulatory and decision-making activities are transparent and comply with state laws, regulations, and governance standards? This would include evaluating the Commissioners’ standards of conduct and processes related to ex parte communications and conflicts of interest.
2. Does the PUC have adequate processes and controls in place to ensure PUC Commissioners’ expenditures are reasonable, appropriate, for allowable purposes, and in the best interests of the state.
Senator King explained his reasoning for the audit in a press release from the Colorado Senate News:
‘The P.U.C. should be acting as a guardian of public interest to ensure Colorado consumers receive high quality and reasonably priced services…Questions have risen in the legislature, public and media about some of their recent actions and these issues must be addressed.’
As we said before, the PUC is in dire need of reform. Hopefully this audit will be a first step in a direction more friendly to consumers and less cozy with industry, elected officials and special interests.
State Senator Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley) said in an interview on the Amy Oliver Show on 1310 KFKA that information we published was influential in his decision to request an audit of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
Specifically Senator Renfroe cited:
- Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for all travel documents for the PUC commissioners that lead to an ethics charge against Chairman Ron Binz, who decided not to seek reappointment
- Exposure of Xcel Energy’s high profits in Colorado
- Change in the PUC mission statement, which we first published in a May 2010 opinion editorial
- Charges of collusion between the PUC commissioners, Governor Ritter’s administration, Xcel Energy and special interest groups to draft legislation on which the quasi-judicial commission later sat in judgment
According to the Colorado News Agency:
Great quotes from today’s Senate floor debate on HB 1291, which saw republicans Scott Renfroe, Kevin Lundberg and Shawn Mitchell collaborate with democrat Lois Tochtrop to save money for Xcel ratepayers. Two pro-consumer amendments that closely mirror SB 236 and SB 237 were defeated.
- Senator Lois Tochtrop: “I’m buying stock in snuggies because that’s all my constituents will be able to afford if this bill [HB 1291] passes.”
- Senator Kevin Lundberg: Arguing in support of an amendment to save Xcel ratepayers $132 million, “I find it funny that I am arguing in favor of the moderate approach.”
- Senator Shawn Mitchell: “This isn’t a state implementation plan. It’s a payoff plan to special interests.” He got the gavel for that one.
HB 1291 passed second reading. Xcel Energy wins again.
My apologies to Representative Marsha Looper for not including her name as one of the seven no votes on HB 1291. As my colleague William Yeatman wrote, it was Rep. Looper along with Representative Jim Kerr who initially asked for a hearing on the Air Quality Control Commission’s State Implementation Plan that is the foundation of HB 1291 and the subject of so much controversy:
The AQCC submitted this (likely illegal) Regional Haze State Implementation Plan in mid-January. Colorado statute allows lawmakers to request a review of any revision to the State Implementation Plan by the bi-cameral, bi-partisan Legislative Council. On February 11 Reps. Jim Kerr and Marsha Looper made such a request; on February 14, they were joined by Sens. Scott Renfroe, Kevin Lundberg, Shawn Mitchell, Keith King, Jean White, Ted Harvey, Mark Scheffel, and Kent Lambert. All Coloradans owe thanks to these legislators.
Representative Looper’s constituents should know that she is a voice for ratepayers and not just a rubber stamp for Xcel Energy.
Filed under: Archive, CDPHE, HB 1365, New Energy Economy
The Politics Colorado Blog today reports great news:
“Tuesday, Senate Republicans sent a letter to Senate President Shaffer asking Legislative Council to hold a public hearing to review the changes made to the State Implementation Plan (SIP) for implementing regulations for “regional haze”…
…”We think it’s important that Legislative Council hold a public hearing on this effort to give the General Assembly and public more time to consider the impact this plan will have on Colorado,” said Senator Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley.
“Serious questions and concerns have risen about the timing of the information and the data used in the plan,” concluded Renfroe.
As readers of this blog know well, I’ve long railed against the CDPHE’s manipulations of the regional haze rule. In short, the Department has used this regulation to push an anti-coal agenda.
The 2011 legislative session began in earnest last week in Colorado. Below are several bills we are watching.
SB11-058 Electric Utilities Employ Least-Cost Planning for New Resource Acquisition
- Senator Scott Renfroe (R-SD13) is the prime sponsor.
- The Public Utilities Commission must consider “cost” when deciding on new energy facilities and resource acquisition.
- Cost to ratepayers comes before the PUC commissioners’ environmental values.
- “Costs that are not identified as those that will be actually incurred by the electric utility may no be included in the revenue requirement analyses.”
- No $20 per ton phantom carbon tax.