Irate customers complained about soaring energy costs at a recent meeting of the Colorado Public Utility Commission. Gov. Jared Polis responded, directing state agencies to do something — to fix a problem he caused.
“The governor has directed the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which regulates state utilities, and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) to implement several immediate actions to alleviate the natural gas energy burden on Coloradans,” states a Monday news release from the governor’s office.
“I am laying out ways state entities and utilities can take action to help save people money on their energy costs, to identify and implement opportunities to protect Colorado consumers, lower costs and avoid price swings,” Polis wrote.
His letter recommends improving access to “bill pay assistance programs”; “incentivizing utilities to reduce customer costs”; “analyzing ways to limit bill spikes”; “outreach about payment options for those behind on their bills”; “consider establishing new statewide building energy codes”; and other nonsolutions to a supply/demand dilemma he created.
The governor’s directive came after members of the Public Utilities Commission reportedly smirked and laughed at ratepayers who told tragic stories of utility bills quadrupling.
“I just spoke with an older gentleman on SSI … and has his heat all the way down to 60 degrees to keep his bill down,” testified Sabrina Padilla of the Chronic Care Collaborative at the meeting. “He’s sacrificing his body temperature to wear his oxygen to keep his bill down.”
Polis emerged as an anti-energy crusader while representing Boulder in Congress in 2013. With a net worth of hundreds of millions of dollars, Polis sued to stop Weld County hardhat workers from drilling for oil and gas near one of his vacation homes.
In his lawsuit, Polis claimed the temporary fracking work caused “mental suffering, annoyance and the loss of use and enjoyment” of the property. In an article he wrote for The Boulder Daily Camera, Polis said oil and gas extraction caused relatives to live in his Boulder home as “refugees” from the rural estate.
“I have fought for sensible fracking laws — I have written op-eds, introduced legislation to close oil and gas loopholes in the Clean Air Act, and I have even testified before the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission,” Polis wrote in 2013.
As governor, Polis has promoted an expensive transition to “renewable energy” power plants that raises utility rates. He championed and signed into law Senate Bill 181 in 2019.
The bill eliminates traditional exemptions granted to oil and gas operations from county noise restrictions. It authorizes sweeping local restrictions on oil and gas. It amended the Oil and Gas Conservation Act to emphasize environmental protection over production.
The new law transformed a part-time voluntary panel, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, into a “professional” regulatory board with full-time staff.
It reduced to one the former requirement that three commission members have “substantial experience in the oil and gas industry.” It added a mandate for commissioners with substantial experience in “wildlife” and “environmental” protection.
The Polis law transitioned the commission’s original charge to “foster” oil and gas production to an emphasis on environmental protection with the country’s strictest regulations.
Since the law took effect, the commission has reduced oil and gas well approval by more than half. The amount of Denver office space leased or owned by oil and gas companies has dropped from 20% to 10%. The Department of Labor reported one-third fewer Colorado oil field jobs in 2022 than in 2019.
Because Colorado ranks among the top five states for oil and gas resources, curtailing production disrupts the country’s supply. Even worse, Colorado’s regulations inspire anti-energy activism nationwide.
“Industry watchers say Colorado’s approach seems destined to spread as the shale industry matures,” explains a recent article published by Energy Wire. The article quotes an investment adviser saying, “Colorado will be used as a model.”
None of this will substantially mitigate climate change, as India, China and a host of developing countries increase dependence on fossil fuels. Yet, by obstructing oil and gas, Polis exacerbated the energy poverty explained to the Public Utilities Commission.
He and the Legislature caused empty cupboards, utility shutoffs and evictions. Their actions explain the plight of a disabled elderly man who sits in the cold.
Polis cannot fix this with the optics of a demand letter to regulators — the people he directed to cause the problem. Prices are high because production is low — at the behest of Gov. Polis and extremists in the Legislature.
The Gazette Editorial Board