On June 4, Annie Pace and 29 others from Crestone, Baca, and beyond filed a formal complaint with the Colorado Public UtilitIes Commission (PUC). The complaint against the San Luis Valley Rural Electric Company names several injustices and violations of statute, targeting the effect on all residential customers in the region.

The most significant points in the filing they make are:

• lack of forewarning, transparency and due notice regarding rate restructure

• an unjust and unfair demand charge placed on residential customers

• unjust and punitive charges placed on solar-producing customers, thus discouraging clean energy production in direct opposition to Colorado state goals

• unmanageable rate increase for low/fixed income customers in our region

Some of the remedies suggested in the filing are: a refund of demand charges paid to date and a moratorium on future demand charges until the cost of service study is made available and accountability is shown to residential solar producers.

SLVREC was served the complaint on June 5, and has until June 26 to respond (their response will be too late for Eagle publication this issue). The schedule for discovery and hearing has not yet been set. To view the filing in its entirety, or to track progress, one can go to the PUC site, colorado. gov/pacific/dora/puc, Review/Get Documents in a Utilities Proceed- ing, search for E-filing Proceed- ing #19F-0315E, Anne Pace et al V. San Luis Valley Rural Electric Co-op. Public comments can also be added to the filing, so for those who did not sign the complaint in time, concise and useful information can be added to the filing at any time by creating an account through the same website.  This filing group, represent- ing the valley, is in need of financial and legal assistance as the filing proceeds. Please contact Lili Zohar at 303-941-4342 liliezohar@gmail.com if you can help.

Town of Crestone files complaint

Additionally, on June 20, the Town of Crestone filed a formal complaint with the PUC, also targeting the lack of transparency and forewarning of the rate increase, including the 19% monthly charge increase which they say “seems to be a punitive increase for residential customers”, and will cause a financial hardship to most residents of the town “whose residential incomes are far below the state average, often by 60%-70%”

The Town complaint says as item C. “ With the original SLVREC proposal to install SMART meters, customers were repeatedly told that the improved technology would save them money in multiple ways, especially in labor costs, as SLVREC would need fewer man-hours for on-site meter readings. They further state: “The Town’s Board of Trustees feels an immediate need to protest this rate increase, which they feel to be unjust, and which creates serious financial hardships for most residents. For example, the town has received complaints from senior residents and struggling young families of their bill increasing by up to 300%. This demand charge from SLVREC is unjust, unfair, and unconscionable, and violates CRS 40-9.5-106(3).”

The Town of Crestone requests in their filing “an injunction preventing SLVREC from cutting off electricity to town residents, businesses, and nonprofits due to nonpayment or underpayment, pending the formal resolution of this matter.  SLVREC CEO Loren Howard was asked by the Crestone Eagle via phone message if he wished to make a statement on this subject. He has not, as of press time, replied to that message. The schedule and hearing dates have not yet been set. To track this filing go to E-filing proceeding number 19F- 0351E.