Aug 31, 2011 12:39 AM by John Romero

Residents express anger over proposed rate hike

Hundreds turned out in Pueblo Tuesday afternoon for a meeting with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission over a proposed 19% rate hike by Black Hills Energy. The rate increase would cost the average customer around $19 dollars more a month.

Those on fixed incomes say they simply can't afford it. "I know that it's ridiculous to expect low income people to cut back even more than we already are." said a Pueblo woman who spoke to the commission.

Others like Sister Nancy Crafton, who runs a charity organization in Avondale, says her ministry is running out of funds due to helping others who can't pay their bills. "We shouldered the burden of $100,000 worth of utility bills." she explained, "75% went to Black Hills Energy. We cannot sustain this burden."

The proposed rate hike is meant to fund a near $500,000,000 power plant in Pueblo. Christopher Burke with Black Hills Energy tells us the possible benefits of the plant outweigh the costs. "It gives benefits of being able to provide long term stability in rates, energy security of supply and the ability to integrate increasing amounts of renewable energy in to our resource portfolio." he said.

Still, people like Pueblo School District 70 Superintendent Ed Smith, say it's just too much. Especially for a school district who has already made so many cuts. "Cuts in funding for schools combined with rate increases for utilities is not a recipe for success." he told the commission.

While Black Hills can't guarantee a new power plant would cut customer costs. They do say it will stabilize them in the long run. "We realize that it's difficult to see in the short term." explained Burke, "But in the long term this is something that's going to provide benefits to our customers."



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