By Jennifer McRae

DENVER (CBS4)– Gov. Jared Polis wants to protect utility customers in Colorado from dealing with extremely high energy prices that impacted many in Texas during the crisis earlier this month. Polis wrote a letter to the Public Utilities Commission.

Following the deadly and dangerous freeze, consumers in Texas are being forced to pay sky-high utility bills, some reaching thousands of dollars. Polis believes Colorado consumers deserve protection from any unfair practices and applauded the PUC for opening an investigation.

A worker repairs a power line in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2021. Texas is restricting the flow of natural gas across state lines in an extraordinary move that some are calling a violation of the U.S. Constitutions commerce clause. (credit: Thomas Ryan Allison/Bloomberg via Getty Images(

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“It has come to my attention that as a result of the recent extreme winter conditions starting on February 13th across large parts of the country, some Colorado utilities might have purchased natural gas at exorbitantly high market prices and may now seek to pass the cost of the market gas prices along to customers…Consumers should not be expected to shoulder unexpected exceptional costs without first being advised to reduce usage.

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“I understand the PUC has opened an investigatory proceeding to further understand utility planning and actions taken as they relate to this extreme weather event and associated spikes in energy prices. I strongly encourage that as part of this investigatory proceeding and any subsequent action, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should exercise all relevant jurisdictional authority…with a strong emphasis on protecting customers from unreasonable costs associated with short-term natural gas price fluctuation.

“If a utility needs an even greater reduction, they can conduct outbound emails and phone calls (such as reverse 911) to customers requesting that they reduce energy usage. As a backstop measure, if extraordinary circumstances warrant and technology allows, customers should also be able to choose whether to opt into rolling blackouts and thereby hold themselves harmless from drastic price increases. Customers should have the choice to reduce or forego power or heat for a couple hours to avoid hundreds of dollars of extra charges in utility costs.

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“I strongly encourage the PUC to more clearly define a specific set of actions utilities must take to protect Coloradans from excess costs resulting from fluctuating commodity prices, as a precursor to any consideration of passing along excess costs to customers,” Polis’s letter concludes.

Jennifer McRae