Post-recall Legislature can undo rural electric rate hike

By: The Gazette editorial
September 14, 2013 Updated: September 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm
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As we noted here this week, the historic ouster of two sitting Colorado state senators, including Democratic Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs had implications beyond our right to arms or even the traditional partisan divide.

The recall was a reflection of the very real chasm that has opened up between some of our elected leaders and the voting public they purport to represent. Veteran Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli put it succinctly in Wednesday's Denver Post:

"People thought they weren't being listened to."

On no issue did that ring more true than Morse's ill-conceived bid to force higher utility rates on rural Coloradans in pursuit of his rarefied environmental agenda - ordinary businesses, schools, farms and families be damned. His legislation last spring, affecting a number of homes and businesses in several communities right here in the Pikes Peak region, dramatically increased the amount of solar and other renewable energy that must be used by rural electric cooperative associations.

As those costs can only be passed along to ratepayers, measure amounts to a walloping hike in power bills for the families and small businesses served by those co-ops.

The small nonprofit utilities that provide power to most of Colorado's plains, mountain and agricultural communities - including the local communities of Woodland Park, Divide, Falcon, Peyton and Calhan - had pleaded with lawmakers and, ultimately, the governor to back off. No one would listen.

It's not like they haven't been doing their part to help the environment. Previous legislation required rural cooperatives to acquire 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. Morse's measure cranks up that mandate to 20 percent. It's a big hardship on schools, businesses and families. Some estimate say it may cost the average farm about $16,000 a year.

Morse would hear none of the opposition. The city-slicker lawmaker characteristically proved tone-deaf on the issue as he did on so many others. He walked into the polling booth Tuesday unapologetic. By all indications, it helped cost him his job.

Unfortunately, Gov. John Hickenlooper also listened to the fringe of the environmental movement instead of rank-and-file voters on this issue, signing this extreme-green mandate into law. Will the governor and the General Assembly heed Morse's comeuppance?

Our hope is they'll revisit - and repeal - this especially smug and odious example of out-of-touch lawmaking during the next legislative session.

After all, that rate hike is the stuff of which recalls are made.

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