The recent guest column by Councilwoman Lori Winner (“Get full story on electric rates”) brings to mind the old adage: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
During the mayoral campaign, Councilwoman Winner was on the stage with me at numerous candidate forums where the issue of municipalization was discussed. In each of those forums, I stated that if the citizens decide to municipalize our electric supply, it should be under the control of the independently elected water board, our utility company.
If Ms. Winner was blindsided by my plan for municipalization, it is because she was not listening. The Pueblo Board of Water Works has unanimously passed a resolution supporting 2A, which sets forth the facts which are available on its website, www.pueblowater.org.
The full story on electric rates is that Pueblo pays the highest electric rates on the Front Range. Using the rates Councilwoman Winner quoted in her column demonstrates that Pueblo rates are 36 percent higher than Colorado Springs for residential users, 41 percent higher for small commercial and 33 percent higher for large commercial customers.
Comparisons to San Isabel Electric, San Luis and Sangre De Cristo are not relevant, since for the most part, we do not compete with those service areas for economic development prospects.
We do compete with the rest of the Front Range and our high electric rates have hampered our economic development efforts and will continue to do so.
Councilwoman Winner parroted the talking points of Black Hills Energy in explaining the high electric rates in Pueblo. She argued other community’s rates will rise when they abandon their coal plants.
This argument fails to understand the revolutionary change taking place in the generation of energy. Abandoning coal in favor of renewable energy actually will result in lower energy charges as demonstrated by the responses to the request for information in the phase two study commissioned by the City of Pueblo.
Councilwoman Winner’s speculation that Colorado Springs will build a large gas generating station ignores the reality of the energy market and the technological advances in energy generation.
Councilwoman Winner correctly stated that the Board of Water Works is not guaranteeing immediate rate decreases if the municipal utility is established. What is guaranteed is that at the end of the process, we will own the system and under the worst-case scenario, we will be able to pay for it without raising rates.
It is also true that Councilwoman Winner wanted to repeat the mistakes made in Boulder by limiting the amount that could be spent on the municipalization effort, thereby giving Black Hills Energy a target to shoot for.
Because that is the approach that Boulder utilized, they have had five municipal elections on this issue. We and Pueblo Water will be smarter than that.
As I said at the beginning, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
Ballot issue 2A is not a blank check. The purchase price for the assets of Black Hills will be determined by appraisal and the final determination will be made by a Pueblo judge or jury.
While the Board of Water Works has consulted with San Isabel Electric Association, the board has made it abundantly clear that any entity chosen to manage the distribution system, once acquired, will be done by competitive bid.
Black Hills Energy will do everything in its power to keep its Pueblo money machine.
The company has concealed its involvement with Pueblo CARES and has failed to disclose where the $700,000 that Pueblo CARES donated to the Pueblo CARES Issue Committee came from, in violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.
I don’t blame them for being ashamed to take responsibility for the misleading and false advertisements that they have been airing.
Ballot issue 2A is very simple. Do we want to terminate the franchise agreement with Black Hills Energy and establish a municipal utility under the control of the independently elected water board and the citizens of Pueblo?
When was the last time you got to vote for the board of directors of Black Hills Energy or the Public Utilities Commission?
We have the best municipal water supply in the state of Colorado with the lowest rates on the Front Range. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t do the same with electricity. Vote for 2A.
Nick Gradisar is the mayor of Pueblo.