Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 21, 20175min224

Few things get as superheated in Pueblo these days as the city’s ongoing grudge match with its principal power supplier, Black Hills Energy. For years, local government and other critics have railed against the Rapid City, S.D.-based utility over a succession of electricity rate hikes, and they have chided the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), as well, for approving the increases. Pressure has been mounting to rein in Puebloans’ power bills, which, by many accounts, are among the highest in the state.

So the city cheered last year when Gov. John Hickenlooper named Pueblo native Frances Koncilja to the quasi-judicial PUC as one of its three commissioners. The blunt-spoken attorney didn’t waste a minute before going after Black Hills and calling it on the carpet.

Her approach struck the company as so aggressive, it claimed bias and filed a request with the PUC earlier this month asking her to recuse herself from deliberating on its latest request for a rate hike (to be exact, it’s a request for reconsideration of the PUC’s decision to scale back Black Hills’ previous request for a rate hike). She refused to step aside, and the company asked the full board to vote her out of the deliberations. It voted 2-1, including Koncilja’s own vote, against the unusual Black Hills request.

Now, Pueblo County is pushing back even further. Reports the Pueblo Chieftain, the county government has filed a request to the PUC to remove recently appointed Wendy Moser — the one commissioner who had voted with Black Hills against Koncilja — from deliberations on the same pending rate case from which Black Hills had sought to remove Koncilja. Moser, an attorney named to the commission in January, is a former staff counsel to Black Hills.

Writes the Chieftain’s Peter Roper:

Pueblo County…argues that Moser has a conflict of interest because she has extensive knowledge of the many components in the Black Hills rate request from when she was a lawyer in its regulatory office from 2011-2014.

In its motion, the county quotes state law that says a commissioner can be disqualified if they have served as a lawyer on a matter before the commission.

Moser, who at her Senate confirmation hearing in January had faced some of the same questions about her history with Black Hills, contended then she has no conflicts of interest on any matters pending before the PUC.

As ColoradoPolitics.com’s Peter Marcus reported previously, the bias accusations against Koncilija were a lot more colorful than those against Moser:

Black Hills’ motion to disqualify Koncilja was based on alleged bad behavior, using terms like “despised company” “drunken sailor” and “colonial power” to describe the utility.

And Moser’s decision to openly champion Black Hills’ motion against Koncilja led to a wince-worthy exchange not often associated with a staid and deliberative governing body heavy on regulatory procedure and light on drama:

“Commissioner Koncilja … is the one who raised the idea of, it’s Commissioner Moser that you need to be concerned about, not her. This is not about me or my relationship with Black Hills,” Moser said. “One must ask why Commissioner Koncilja would shift the discussion away from the pending motion and make it about me.”

…with Koncilja countering:

…“The decisions we make here affect real people, and regardless of what Black Hills thinks about me or this commission, the rates down there continue to cause real heartburn, and I think the problem we’re going to have going forward is that there is a perception in that community that you have your fingerprints on a lot of the decisions that have created the pain,” Koncilja addressed Moser.

We’ll stay tuned for the next salvo — and be ready to duck.



Peter MarcusPeter MarcusMarch 1, 20176min216
Tensions between the three members of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) bubbled to the surface on Wednesday as the panel weighed allegations of bias. The hearing revolved around Commissioner Frances Koncilja and her dealings with Black Hills Energy, a southern Colorado utility that largely serves the Pueblo area. Black Hills asked that Koncilja be recused […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusFebruary 9, 20178min182
A Senate committee hearing Thursday on the confirmation of two Public Utilities Commission (PUC) appointees opened up old partisan wounds. Republicans and Democrats thoroughly questioned the appointees — one a Republican, the other a Democrat — over spiking electric rates, federal carbon pollution standards and the potential for bias. The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 5, 20174min166
Jeff Ackermann and Wendy Moser are Gov. John Hickenlooper’s news appointees to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The three-member panel regulates utilities and tries to maintain reasonable prices, as well as overseeing taxis and ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. That sounded like good news to Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, the […]

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Rachael WrightRachael WrightDecember 8, 201611min220

Fifteen Years Ago this week in the Colorado Statesman … The Colorado Children's Chorale performance at the White House was proclaimed a riveting success. Thirty-two Colorado children performed at a private event at the White House, an experience the now-adults have surely not forgotten. “The Holiday Open House” event was for White House staff, members of Congress, the Secret Service, and members of Washington D.C.’s local fire and police forces. The chorale performed two 45-minute sets — one at the White House entrance and the other in the East Room — consisting of holiday and patriotic music.


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Jared WrightJared WrightSeptember 8, 20165min242

Success in Denver is defined more by how much you give back than by the amount you earn. Our community is brimming with individuals and organizations committed to making our city, state and the world a better place. Throughout the decades, in the face of economic ebbs and flows, few events have stood the test of time, proven more valuable and garnered more enthusiasm than the Denver Rustlers. Rooted in our Western history, the Rustlers draws people from every corner of state to the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. The Denver Rustlers launched three decade ago when an exceptional economic dip threatened to end the Junior Livestock Sale at the Colorado State Fair. The sale marks a significant milestone for 4-H kids and the Future Farmers of America, as they learn the details and value of the rural economy, crucial ranching and business skills.



Jared WrightJared WrightAugust 31, 201637min218

DENVER — Good morning, and happy Hump Day! Your Statesman team was on hand for the whirlwind Denver Rustlers trip to the Junior Livestock Sale at the State Fair in Pueblo yesterday — and wow, just about everybody who's anybody in Colorado politics was there. Here comes the who's-who list. Ready? OK, here goes ... Donning the Rustlers signature western wear for a good cause yesterday were Gov. John Hickenlooper, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Cory Gardner, U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton and Ed Perlmutter, Colorado Auto Dealers Association President Tim Jackson, state Reps. Angela Williams, Clarice Navarro, Rhonda Fields, Beth McCann, Steve Lebsock, Dan Pabon, state Sens. Mike Johnston, Ray Scott, Beth Martinez Humenik, Jerry Sonnenberg, Bill Cadman, Kevin Grantham, Mark Scheffel, Chris Holbert, Jack Tate, Larry Crowder and Leroy Garcia, to name just a few. Many, many more were there, including many candidates running for the office. Former state Rep. Bob Gardner and El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller were also both at the Junior Livestock sale riding for the Pikes Peak Posse. Hewlett-Packard CEO and politico Meg Whitman even stopped by the Rustler's lunch at Del Frisco's before the group departed for the Livestock show in Pueblo. Noticeably absent were U.S. Rep. Ken Buck and his conservative star friend in town for the day, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, but they were busy fundraising and rallying.


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Kara MasonKara MasonFebruary 10, 20164min188
Frances Koncilja, candidate for the state’s Public Utilities Commission, received a strong thumbs-up from the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee Monday. Koncilja, a Denver-area attorney with ties to Pueblo, was appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper and won confirmation from six of the seven members of the Business Committee. Both chambers of the Legislature will […]

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