About 250 people from Pueblo, Colo. and the surrounding communities packed the Pueblo County Conference Room Tuesday night for a three-hour public hearing, in which dozens testified against the proposed utility rate hike by Black Hills Energy.
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The proposed increase of about 19 percent comes just a year after a 10 percent increase was approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
The Pueblo AARP chapter president and a staff member testified before the PUC, expressing concern about the rate hike during the current economic climate. Dozens of AARP members attended and peppered the audience with red AARP T-shirts. The people, for the most part, were very angry about the request from Black Hills.
“It was a thrill to see a standing-room only crowd there to fight what appears to be an unreasonable utility hike,” said AARP Colorado ASD-Communications Angela Cortez. “People were very passionate in their testimonies. They hooted and applauded one another, thanked and congratulated each other. I felt so much appreciation from the crowd. I’m so happy AARP members were out in force.”
AARP told the commission that with the rising cost of food and medicine, there is no way older Coloradans on fixed incomes, as well as families with lower incomes, could bear an increase of this nature.
AARP also was interviewed by a variety of news media. The Pueblo Chieftain published two stories, including a front-page article about the hearing. Channels 12 and 13 both ran three broadcast news reports between them and Clear Channel radio ran the story on its stations in Southern Colorado.
According to the Public Utilities Commission, Black Hills requested a 19 percent rate increase that could hike the monthly bill of average residential consumers by $18.96.
An increase of this magnitude could have long-term and dire consequences for families with lower incomes and those older adults on fixed incomes, forcing people to choose among food, medicine and heating their homes.
In addition, many older Coloradans need to maintain even temperatures in their homes for health reasons. Older adults and families with lower incomes can’t bear the increase.
The PUC is expected to make a decision on the Black Hills request in December.