City government

City Council unanimously approves Colorado Springs Utilities natural gas rate hike

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) – Members of the Colorado Springs City Council voted on Tuesday to approve an increase in natural gas rates.

Now that it’s approved, Colorado Springs Utilities said the increase will begin Oct. 1 and run through Dec. 31, but will be reviewed before Jan. 1.

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While natural gas rates will go up, Springs Utilities told KRDO that electricity rates will go down during this time; the Board also approved the reduction in electricity rates.

According to the resolutions submitted to the Board, natural gas will increase by 5.7%, and electricity will decrease by 3.9%.

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The adjustment will increase a residential customer’s overall average monthly utility bill by $4.94 — slightly higher than last year, the utility said — during the winter months.

However, the utility said that when spread over the next 12 months, the average monthly residential bill will actually decrease by 32 cents.

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Natural gas prices will be higher for commercial and industrial uses.

The utility advises customers to take steps now, before winter arrives, to save energy and reduce natural gas consumption; there are also programs to help customers who are struggling to pay their utility bills.

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Lawrence Martinez spoke during the presentations and expressed concern about how the increase will affect neighbors in his community on the southeast side.

“You’re going to see quite a few people move out of their apartment because if they can’t afford to pay their utility bills – which are tied to their rent – they have to move out,” he explained. “They’re being evicted. On the southeast side, there are a lot of apartment buildings that use gas.”

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Councilman Wayne Williams said city leaders are at the mercy of a global natural gas market hurt by strong demand for liquefied natural gas overseas and dwindling storage and production.

“We would all prefer a cheaper price, but we can’t buy on wishes or dreams,” he said. “We have to buy based on the reality of the market. So the question is how do you plan for that?”

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Spokesman Tristan Gearhart said the utility provides for this by closely studying market trends and reviewing rates quarterly, to be proactive, not reactive.

“Rates are not as high right now as we had expected,” he explained. “And we are seeing an increase in storage and production. However, now may not be the time to help us this winter.”

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Councilman Mike O’Malley said he hopes the utility will invest in other sources, such as geothermal power, which should be cheaper and plentiful along the Front Range.

“In Iceland they use it to keep the slush away so they don’t have to plow or shovel,” he said. “I just want to say that we are where we are today, and we have to face it. But we also have to use what God has given us, under our feet. Find a way to do it so that everyone takes advantage.”

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In other Council business, members voted unanimously to allow the utility to initiate eminent domain proceedings against a landowner who refuses to sell two easements allowing for repairs and maintenance of the Homestake Water, a pipeline the city shares with Aurora.

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The utility said the landlord had refused offers for the easements and was now delaying the work schedule.

Council also approved a $140,000 settlement with a woman who was pepper sprayed by police during the downtown Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020; Bill Murray and Yolanda Avila voted against.

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“I’m concerned about the number of settlements we’re accepting,” he said. “We settle these cases without ever having a discussion. For me, that’s a problem. I can’t win the public’s trust if I can’t hold people accountable. It’s not about protecting the police, it’s about protecting the public trust. There have to be consequences. I take this issue seriously and I want everyone to understand that.”

City of Colorado Springs

Council’s final decision of the day was to overrule a Planning Commission appeal and approve a rezoning for the 400-unit Spectrum Loop apartment project near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Voyager Parkway.