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Pueblo's Garcia aims for more clarity, transparency on utility bills

February 17, 2017 Updated: February 17, 2017 at 2:58 pm
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Senate Bill 105 sure ought to resonate in Pueblo, where power rates are by many accounts among the highest in Colorado. Which is probably why the bill is sponsored in the upper chamber by a Pueblo lawmaker, Democratic state Sen. Leroy Garcia; his community has been the scene of ratepayer outrage more than once in recent years in the face of successive rate hikes.

While Garcia's legislation doesn't directly tackle the utility rates themselves - those are governed by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission - his bill does offer an enhanced degree of transparency, clarity and accountability in billing. That's a hot-button issue in its own right for utility ratepayers.

SB 105 passed the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee with bipartisan support on Thursday and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

"Hard-working Coloradans should know exactly what they're paying for when they receive their electric bill every month," said Garcia in a statement released by the Senate Democratic press office. "In Pueblo especially, where we have some of the highest energy rates in the state, it's not right that a utility company can just sneak hidden or mysterious 'fees' that ultimately jack up people's electric bill. I'm pleased this consumer-protection bill passed, and look forward to continuing the conversation."

SB 105 requires investor-owned, state-regulated public utilities - like Xcel Energy serving the Denver area and Black Hills Energy serving Pueblo - to provide their customers with "comprehensive billing statements."

That means monthly utility bills would have to meet a range of standards set out in the proposal, including a line-item representation of all monthly charges and credits; a breakdown of controversial tiered rates in those months when they're used, and the rate and usage for the current month and each of the previous 12 months.

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