A bill that would make it easier for utility regulators to help low-income residents with their energy bills was made into law this week, after sailing through the House and Senate.
The law will allow the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC)-consisting of three members who are appointed by the Governor for four-year terms-to consider electric and gas rates for customers who are at or below 185% of the federal poverty level.The bill does not detail a specific plan to help low-income residents, but it does empower the PUC to come up with such a plan, a first step in helping those who have trouble paying their utility bills.
In February, Colorado Confidential reported on a committee hearing of the bill:
The federal Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) operates in Colorado during the winter to assist those who are having problems paying their energy bill, but as one speaker pointed out during the hearing, the program bases energy needs on weather from previous years, which can leave many out in the cold if the following winter proves to be harsh.
While the Rocky Mountain News has come out against the measure, saying it will turn the PUC into a “welfare agency,” this appears to be one of those rare cases where progressive legislation has been passed without a political struggle.