PUEBLO, CO – January 9, 2017 –– Black Hills Energy today filed an application with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for rehearing, reargument or reconsideration of the commission’s decision, handed down on December 16, to reduce the company’s proposed $8.5 million annual revenue increase, requested in May 2016, to less than $2 million. Concurrently with this application for rehearing, reargument or reconsideration, Black Hills Energy is filing a motion for Commissioner Frances Koncilja to recuse herself from continuing to participate in any further proceedings in this matter.
The proposed revenue increase is necessary to cover costs for the new LM6000 natural gas-fired turbine at the Pueblo Airport Generating Station, construction of which was approved by the PUC in January 2014; final costs related to decommissioning and removing the W.N. Clark coal-fired plant, as part of compliance with the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act; and other expenses as permitted by regulatory statute.
Applications for rehearing, reargument or reconsideration are an established part of the regulatory process, made by utilities to ask the PUC to revisit decisions based on evidence, precedent or fairness.
Black Hills Energy believes the commissioners made errors in their December decision by demonstrating bias, making decisions not supported by evidence, making findings inconsistent with cost-recovery provisions of the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act and the commission’s own prior decisions, and treating Black Hills Energy differently than other regulated utilities in Colorado have been treated in similar situations.
“This is fundamentally about fairness and following the law,” said Fred Stoffel, director of regulatory services for Black Hills Energy. “An unbiased regulatory process, in which all commissioners treat regulated utilities equitably, is in the public interest. Colorado law requires that commissioners must be impartial, unbiased hearing officers and finders of fact, balancing the interests of customers and regulated utilities such as Black Hills, not acting as advocates for any one party to the rate-making process.”
“Based on the PUC’s final decision on our May 2016 rate review filing, we do not believe the commissioners met their obligations in this instance, which is why we have made this application,” Stoffel added.
A copy of the Black Hills Energy application is available on the PUC website at http://www.dora.state.co.us/pls/efi/EFI_Search_UI.search (Type 16AL-0326E in the Proceeding Number box and then hit Search). Historically, the PUC has acted upon requests for rehearing, reargument or reconsideration within 30 days.
“We are hopeful the PUC will take up our application in a timely manner,” Stoffel said. “We would like to work with the commission to rectify the errors in the December decision, to issue a new decision that balances the interests of customers and Black Hills Energy, and to restore a regulatory process for Colorado that is fair, unbiased and rules-based.”
In the meantime, Black Hills Energy customers in Southern Colorado will see bill changes based on the PUC’s December decision as planned. If any additional rate changes are approved by the commission as a result of the application for rehearing, reargument or reconsideration, they will go into effect at a later date, subject to the commission’s orders.
“Black Hills Energy remains committed to providing the reliable, safe and clean energy that our Southern Colorado communities need,” said Christopher Burke, vice president of operations for Black Hills Energy. “We are proud to offer our customers a generation portfolio based on wind, solar and clean-burning natural gas, using the most efficient gas turbine technology.”
“The LM6000 is the final infrastructure investment we have made in order to comply with the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act,” Burke added. “Black Hills Energy is the first regulated electric utility in Colorado to eliminate coal entirely from its generation portfolio.”
Burke said the new gas turbine replaces generating capacity from the coal-fired W.N. Clark Power Plant, closed by Black Hills in 2013 to comply with the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. It will be used to provide additional energy to serve all Black Hills Energy customers and ensure reliability on high-usage days, as set by the PUC.
Customers can find rate request information and information about the company and its services at www.blackhillsenergy.com and www.blackhillscorp.com and through Black Hills Energy’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.