Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 12, 20173min495

What unifies Pueblo politicos of every stripe? Black Hills Energy. It seems elected officials in the Steel City can’t go wrong by lashing out at the Rapid City, S.D.-based public utility, which supplies the city most of its power — and has been widely excoriated for years of spiraling utility bills.

Talk on the Pueblo City Council has turned to ending the city’s franchise agreement with Black Hills at the earliest opportunity, and that talk got even more heated last week, as the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports:

City Councilman Chris Nicoll got a loud ovation from the audience last Monday when he led a majority of council in saying it’s time to put Black Hills Energy on notice the city will be looking at ways to take an “off ramp” and get out of its 20-year franchise contract with the utility.

Nicoll was angry. So were other council members. Not to mention the citizen activists in the room who have been arguing against Black Hills rate increases and other social policies for years.

As we’ve noted here before, the council is thinking of ending the franchise with with the investor-owned, state-regulated utility in 2020, a decade earlier than the agreement is scheduled to expire. Will the city follow through? Writes Roper:

…what does it mean for the city to cancel its franchise agreement in 2020, a decade before it is set to expire?

“The city needs to look at all the available options, talk to experts and see what’s possible,” Nicoll said this week. “I don’t have some dream alternative ready to go, but we need to put Black Hills on notice that Pueblo is looking for other options.”

The utility got the message this week.

“We remain committed to providing reliable service to the Pueblo community,” Black Hills lawyer Kevin Opp said Friday. “We certainly hope the city doesn’t go down that path (of cancelling the contract in 2020).”