Tuesday, February 19, 2008

McElhany Criticizes PUC Reauthorization as "Trojan Horse" for "Extreme Green Agenda"

The Senate minority leader attacked Tuesday a bill to reauthorize the state's Public Utilities Commission, labeling it a "trojan horse" for the Democratic majority's "extreme green agenda."

HB 1227 would authorize the PUC to consider "social, economic and environmental" factors in determining rates that can be charged by utilities subject to its regulatory authority. Those factors would be in addition to the mandates to consider the impact on consumer prices and access to utility services imposed by current law.

The bill, sponsored by House majority leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder, would also allow the PUC to impose fines on public utilities and give the agency control over litigation filed by the Attorney General on its behalf.

The controversy surrounding the alleged change to the agency's mission arises from sections 6 and 7 of the bill. Those provisions authorize the Department of Public Health and Environment to notify the PUC of its concerns about matters before the rate-setting body and require the Office of Consumer Counsel, which advocates for ratepayers before the PUC, to consider "social, economic and environmental" impacts of utility rate proposals when developing arguments to be presented. Another section requires the PUC to consider information provided by DPHE, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Local Government and the Governor's Energy Office in rate cases.

The omnibus bill includes several other contentious issues, including the regulation of taxis and a provision allowing ex parte communication between the Office of Consumer Counsel and the PUC on rulemaking matters.