The smoldering controversy over Black Hills Energy electric rates in the Pueblo area has spawned a bill to deal with alleged conflicts of interest and ethical conduct on Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission.
Two Pueblo legislators — Rep. Daneya Esgar and Sen. Leroy Garcia — are sponsoring House Bill 1323, which would impose a four-year cooling off period before a regulated utility executive or officer could be appointed to the commission. It also would create a new PUC position, called ethics ombudsman, to receive complaints and issue annual reports on commissioners’ performance of their duties.
The four-year ban on utility executives serving on the PUC seems to be the offspring of the controversy surrounding the recent PUC appointment of Wendy Moser, a former senior attorney for Black Hills from 2011-14. The bill also would prohibit any of the three commissioners from having official ties or financial interest in something subject to PUC regulation. The commissioner with a financial conflict would have to leave the PUC unless he or she divested of the interest in a reasonable time.