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As Pueblo eyes a fossil-fuel-free future, Mother Jones takes note

Author: Kara Mason - January 17, 2018 - Updated: January 17, 2018

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A wind turbine’s tower is prepared for shipment at Vestas’s Pueblo plant. (vestas.com via YouTube.com)

A Pueblo city councilman wants the Steel City to rely completely on alternative energy by 2035, and he’s catching some national attention for it.

Larry Atencio, the representative from Pueblo’s East Side, told Mother Jones what he envisions for the city, which has been in upheaval over energy prices for everal years. Atencio first introduced a resolution to his fellow lawmakers a year ago pledging to propel the city toward complete renewable energy within 17 years.

But Mother Jones asks: Can Pueblo, a place “where there are lots of poor people struggling to pay their utility bills,” do it?

The magazine points out that making a major shift toward renewable energy could mean even higher rates. It’s earlier efforts to rid the city of fossil-fueled electricity that are said to have started the utility rate spiral in the first place:

When Black Hills Energy raised rates, a lot of that money went toward closing dirty power plants and building cleaner ones. The company shut down an outdated gas plant in downtown Pueblo and an old coal plant in Cañon City (the next town to the west). Black Hills was the first utility in Colorado to eliminate coal from its system. It replaced that dirty power with wind turbines, solar panels, and natural gas. As a result, 19 percent of the electrons streaming from Black Hills Energy to Pueblo come from renewables, and the company is on track to reach 30 percent in the next two years. According to (company spokeswoman Julie) Rodriguez, Pueblo’s electric supply is “one of the cleanest in the state.”

Atencio told Mother Jones, as he did local reporters, that the high rates from energy provider Black Hills provided some inspiration for the resolution, which has no legally binding requirements. That’s probably why the resolution has been so popular among residents.

While the Mother Jones piece raises a lot of questions about what may be in store for the Steel City — which is actively putting an emphasis on attracting the solar industry — there haven’t been any actual policy shifts or new ordinances that support the ambitious goal.

Kara Mason

Kara Mason

Kara Mason covers southern Colorado, Aurora and statewide issues for ColoradoPolitics.com. She also writes for the Aurora Sentinel.