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Pueblo customers to testify against Black Hills’ proposed rate hike

PUEBLO, Colo. – The cost of utilities could increase by four percent if Black Hills Energy is granted a rate increase.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is holding a public hearing Thursday to hear from customers, before deciding whether to approve the rate proposal.

“It just seems like another rate hike, again? Didn’t we just do this?” asked Sharon Garcia, a Black Hills Energy customer.

Black Hills has raised its electric rate by 17.4 percent since it began serving Southern Colorado in 2008. Bret Jones, a senior program manager with the utility company, said Black Hills first requested a 12.6 percent rate increase in 2008. Then, in 2010, the company asked the PUC for a 4.9 percent increase to pay for construction of the Pueblo Airport Generating Station.

Garcia plans to be at the Pueblo County commissioners’ chambers on Thursday to testify against Black Hills latest request.

“I want them to see that we’re not just numbers on their reports. This is who we are. We’re people who are struggling,” she said.

Garcia has taught her two youngest sons to keep the lights and television off if there’s no one in the room. Her curtains stay closed in the summer, to keep her southside Pueblo home cool.

“If there’s nobody in here to look at the fish tank, why is it on?” she reminds her children.

“I tell my little brother, if you’re watching TV, you don’t need the light,” said 10-year-old Mariano Garcia.

Jones said Black Hills Energy is asking for a four percent electric rate increase to pay for construction of a wind farm that was built in Huerfano County in 2010. The increase would be about a $4 hike in a customers’ monthly utilities bill.

The hearing starts at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Pueblo County commissioners chambers at 215 W. 10 St.

Another hearing will be held from 4-7 p.m. on Sept. 11. A location hasn’t been determined.

Black Hills energy declined to do an on-camera interview.