“The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has full economic and quality of service regulatory authority over intrastate telecommunication services; and investor-owned electric, gas and water utilities, as well as partial regulatory control over municipal utilities and electric associations.
The PUC’s regulatory responsibilities encompass a wide range of utilities. The PUC has jurisdiction over gas pipeline inspection units, including investor-owned distribution operators; municipal distribution operators; master meter distribution operators; investor-owned transmission operators; some municipal transmission operators; LP operators; and direct sales purchasers.” (1)
Why it’s important
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has regulatory authority over investor-owned utilities, including Xcel Energy. Under Colorado State Law, any change related to rate structure must have their approval.
The PUC derives its authority wholly from constitutional and stautory provisions. The statutes also mandate that the PUC must first give paramount consideration to the public interest, per the Public Utilities Commission own website. (1)
However, the inclusion of the public in the workings of the PUC is currently being debated. Clean Energy Action’s Research Director, Leslie Glustrom has recently been removed from participating in two dockets before the Public Utilities Commission (more information below under the “Current News” heading.)
The PUC is considering Xcel Energy’s addition of about $250 million in capital costs for pollution control for the Pawnee coal plant in northeast Colorado. Such expenditures will keep the Pawnee coal plant on-line until 2041. Without public participation in the process, such expenditures may move forward without citizen input. In Docket 11A-325E Glustrom Answer 2011-08-31 Final (Pawnee Emission Control Docket)–Xcel has moved to strike this Answer Testimony that Glustrom submitted.
Furthermore, Xcel’s wind curtailment costs (i.e. paying to turn off wind turbines so that Xcel can operate its coal plants) have grown by more than a factor of 30 in the last 4 years, totaling over $3.5 million in 2010. Glustrom’s discovery piece, LWG 2 Wind Curtailment Costs, shows this data and is another example of the kind of information that citizen intervenors provide to the PUC decision-making process.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission stemmed from the operating and building of railroads in the 19th century. “In the early 1880s, there was considerable support in Washington and in a number of state capitols for legal controls on the railroads’ operations, and for regulating the rates they charged to haul commodities and people. The Colorado Legislature moved to establish such regulation in 1885, by creating the office of Railroad Commission.
The Public Utilities Commission developed out of the Railroad Commission and was empowered to set rates and also to seek prosecution and fines for violations of rules or the charging of excessive or discriminatory rates. (1) For more information, visit about the Public Utilities Commission.
Glustrom has been a citizen intervener at the PUC since 2005 on dockets such as the construction of Xcel’s newest coal plant, Comanche 3; the pricing of Xcel’s WindSource program; the implementation of the SmartGrid in Boulder; and the addition of pollution controls to the Pawnee and Hayden coal plants. The decision to remove Glustrom from the PUC may set a precedent of keeping individual participation out of the decision making process at the PUC.
Clean Energy Action’s Research Director, Leslie Glustrom, has recently been barred from intervening in two cases before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Under its new chair, Joshua Epel, the PUC is in the process of ending over 40 years of citizen participation.
According to the Boulder Daily Camera, “Some entities — such as the staff of the PUC and Colorado’s Office of Consumer Council — are allowed to intervene in every docket ‘by right.’ But other entities — must petition for permission to intervene. To have their requests granted, those organizations must show that they have a ‘substantial’ monetary interest (not just an academic interest) in the outcome of the docket and that no other intervening party ‘adequately’ represents their interests.”
Since 2005, Glustrom has been granted permission to intervene on the basis that here concerns were not represented by anyone else and were beyond just an academic scope. In September of 2011, her ability to intervene was removed.
C11-0987 (Docket 11A-510E–Hybrid REC trading) is the decision that denies Glustrom’s ability to intervene. It is written in a way that it can be used to likely deny essentially all future interventions by Glustrom –or other public citizens or organizations. C11-0987_11A-510E Denying Exceptions LWG Out
The PUC then excluded Glustrom from the next docket (Docket 11A-689E) on the Limon II wind farm. This Supplement to the Petition to Intervene was denied on Tuesday September 13.
11A-689E Glustrom Supp Petition Intervene 2011-09-12  w Edits
Glustrom’s argument that there is a constitutional right for allowing citizen intervention at the PUC: 11A-510E_Glustrom_RRR_of_C11-0987_2011-10-04_Final
If you think the public should be allowed to participate with full rights at the PUC, please email the Xcel Board of directors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more, see the Boulder Daily Camera article about Glustrom being removed from PUC intervention.
Or the Boulder Blue Line article by Boulder City Council Member, Macon Cowles, PUC Overturns 40 Years of Precedent in Denying Intervenor Status to Leslie Glustrom
(1) Department of Regulatory Agencies: Public Utilities Commission