BY PETER ROPER THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
Published: January 9, 2017; Last modified: January 9, 2017 10:44PM
Black Hills Energy wants the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to reconsider its $8.5 million rate request and also wants Commissioner Frances Koncilja to recuse herself from further participation in the case because of her sharply critical comments about the electric utility.
In a filing Monday with the PUC, the utility argues that Koncilja, a Denver attorney and Pueblo native, has demonstrated an unfair bias and “personal prejudice” against Black Hills in several hearings about current and past rate requests.
The utility wanted an $8.5 million annual revenue increase from the PUC this year but all three commissioners — Koncilja and former Commissioners Glen Vaad and Joshua Epel — cut that request down to less than $1 million at a Nov. 30 meeting.
At that meeting, Koncilja charged Black Hills with taking advantage of Pueblo ratepayers and also criticized the PUC for being too lenient with the utility in the past.
In its filing, the utility argues that it is entitled to fairness from a commissioner.
Since that meeting, both Epel and Vaad have resigned from the commission and Gov. John Hickenlooper has named Jeff Ackerman, former director of the Colorado Energy Office, and Wendy Moser, of Charter Communications and a former Black Hills lawyer, to the commission.
They were sworn in Monday.
Koncilja could not be reached for comment Monday night.
The request that she recuse herself from further consideration of the rate case cites her comments at previous hearings and meetings where she charged that Black Hills was “looting” local ratepayers, was “the most despised company” in Southern Colorado and had “spent money like a drunken sailor.”
The utility noted that Koncilja had even suggested that Pueblo or other parties could file a fraud claim against the utility.
Fred Stoffel, director of regulatory services for Black Hills, said in a statement that Koncilja’s comments meant the utility didn’t get a fair hearing on its rate request — which is why it wants the matter reconsidered.
“An unbiased regulatory process, in which all commissioners treat regulated utilities equitably, is in the public interest,” he said.