Black Hills asks a Denver court to disqualify Koncilja
Black Hills Energy is asking a Denver district court to consider forcing Commissioner Frances Koncilja off any review of the utility’s 2016 rate request by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
The utility is appealing the PUC’s 2-1 vote on March 1, where Chairman Jeff Ackermann sided with Koncilja in rejecting Black Hills’ claim that Koncilja had shown a deep-rooted bias against the company when the PUC made deep cuts in its 2016 request for an additional $8.5 million a year in revenue.
The utility argued then — and in its May 8 filing in Denver — that Koncilja’s caustic criticisms of the utility and its rate increases violated state rules that require commissioners to be unbiased in making decisions.
While the utility wants the Denver court to review Koncilja’s actions, it is also asking the court to delay that process until the PUC has reconsidered the utility’s 2016 rate request.
The review of the rate case is pending before the PUC; it could be considered as early as June.
Last November, the PUC — then made up of Koncilja and Commissioners Joshua Epel and Glenn Vaad — sharply reduced the utility’s revenue request to about $1 million a year.
That was much less than Black Hills said it needed to pay the expenses of purchasing a $61 million “peak power” turbine for its Pueblo Area Generating Station.
In that decision meeting, Koncilja made repeated sharp comments about Black Hills, saying it was plundering its ratepayers and even criticizing earlier PUC decisions on those rates.
Epel and Vaad both stepped down from the PUC in January. Gov. John Hickenlooper then appointed Ackermann and Wendy Moser, a former Black Hills lawyer, to the commission.
Soon after, Black Hills filed a motion asking Koncilja to disqualify herself from further action in the rate request, quoting her many criticisms of the company.
Koncilja rejected that request, leading up to the March 1 vote where Moser voted to disqualify Koncilja.
But that was just the opening round of a crossfire of demands for recusal.