Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pueblo fights poverty and power

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 5:23 PM

click to enlarge A shot of Pueblo taken Jan. 18, 2014. - BRYCE CRAWFORD
  • Bryce Crawford
  • A shot of Pueblo taken Jan. 18, 2014.

A link from commenter Clara McKenna tipped us off to a good story from the Washington Post regarding the electrical situation in Pueblo. Posted today, "How not to shut down coal plants" looks at what Puebloans are facing now that Black Hills Energy is replacing its coal plants with natural gas, all the while taking a (maybe too) firm stance on payment. 

Somewhere in there we've also got Xcel, which recently made an unsolicited (and failed) bid for a portion of Colorado Springs Utilities.

Anyway, here's a highlight:
For more than a century, Pueblo’s coal powered the state: The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, headquartered on the south side of town, accounted for half of Colorado’s production. Its smelters employed thousands of people. That business declined over the years, though; the mighty blast furnaces shut down in 1982. ...

The local utility, Aquila, bought energy from Colorado coal giant Xcel when it needed extra; the dependency gradually increased to 75 percent of Pueblo’s demand.

Buying energy seemed to make sense in the mid-2000s, when — over strong objections from environmentalists — regulators allowed Xcel to build a new coal-fired plant at its Comanche generating station outside Pueblo, which locals thought would supply their energy needs for the foreseeable future. But soon after South Dakota-based Black Hills bought out Aquila in 2008, Xcel pulled the plug ...

Local officials say that’s when the troubles really began. Looking back, they wish Colorado’s regulators had pushed Xcel to keep selling power locally, just as the city signed a 20-year exclusive franchise agreement with Black Hills that essentially allows it to do anything the Public Utility Commission approves.

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