Fort Collins Utilities raising water rates 2%, electricity rates 3% in 2021 — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

The Cameron Peak fire soon after it started on Aug. 13, 2020. By Sept. 11, the fire had grown to more than 102,000 acres (now >200,000 acres) and was not expected to be considered out until Oct. 31. Photo credit: InciWeb via The Colorado Sun

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Fort Collins City Council members approved the rate increases, 3% for electricity and 2% for water, with some hesitation in light of COVID-19’s continued economic impacts on the community. For the typical household in Fort Collins, the rate increase will mean an average monthly increase of $2.36 for electricity and $0.96 for water.

Several council members said the city should consider a possible moratorium on service shut-offs if COVID-19 risk factors trigger another stay-at-home order. Cases and hospitalizations continue to mount in Larimer County, and the health department elevated restrictions on public gatherings Wednesday.

Fort Collins Utilities recently notified about 4,000 customers that service shut-offs will resume after Nov. 13. The city is encouraging residents and businesses to apply for financial assistance with their bill or set up a payment plan…

The 3% electricity rate increase will cover a bump in wholesale power costs and bolster Utilities reserves to prepare for future capital improvements. The 2% water rate increase is a result of the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome wildfires, which have ripped across Fort Collins’ watershed and are expected to cost the city between $1 million and $4.3 million in mitigation costs…

The city had planned to request a 2% water rate increase for 2022, but moved it ahead one year because of the fire, said Lance Smith, Utilities strategic finance director. Utilities is likely to propose another modest rate increase for 2022.

The Cameron Peak Fire, approaching full containment at nearly 209,000 acres, is the biggest fire in Colorado history. Utilities staff said earlier in October they expect its impact on the city’s water quality to be similar to the 2012 High Park Fire, which filled the Poudre River with ash, soil and sediment and infamously turned the stream black for a brief period. The 2013 flood eventually washed out much of the remaining debris, but city leaders consider it unlikely that Fort Collins will get another flood of that magnitude again soon…

That means the Cameron Peak Fire’s fallout will probably persist for longer, degrading water quality in the river that makes up about 50% of Fort Collins’ water supply. The city’s share of post-fire recovery work will drain an estimated $1 million to $4.3 million from Utilities funds, and the projected 2021 rate increase will produce roughly $600,000 to offset that cost.

Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell said he understands the necessity of the unexpected water rate increase given the “extraordinary” circumstances…

The electricity rate increase will cover a 0.3% wholesale cost increase from Platte River Power Authority and partially address a gap between Utilities’ revenues and operating expenses. Utilities has also put a hiring freeze in place and won’t give salary increases in 2021 to address the gap between revenue and expenses…

Council members agreed to approve the rate increases but keep the door open for future discussion about lingering utility rate issues. The time-of-day rate structure, which charges customers higher rates for electricity used during peak-use hours, has been in place for about two years. But council members are still hearing from residents who are dissatisfied with the perceived unfairness of the change and uncertain about how to navigate the rate structure without significantly disrupting their daily routines.

Time-of-day rates, which use cost signals to flatten the community’s peak electricity demand, make “logical, connect-the-dots, engineering sense,” council member Ross Cunniff said, “but it has not made intuitive sense for most of our residents, and that’s risky.”

#Drought planning hinges on #DemandManagement, reaching an agreement could be challenging — The #Farmington Daily Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #DCP

From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

The four states in the upper basin, including New Mexico, are working on demand management plans to reduce the risk they will be mandated to reduce water use to fulfill obligations of the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

While this could reduce the risk to the water users, New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission Director Rolf Schmidt-Petersen told the San Juan Water Commission that he is not highly optimistic that the upper basin states can reach an agreement about demand management and storage. He said coming to an agreement on these topics will take a while…

The San Juan River, below Navajo Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Recognizing that drought could strain the limited supplies in the river, both the upper and the lower Colorado River basins have created drought contingency plans. One key element of the upper basin plan is demand management. This means water users can be paid to temporarily reduce their water consumption and the water saved through that method would be placed in one of the upper basin reservoirs, such as Navajo Lake.

If a situation arose where the upper basin could not reach its contractual obligation to deliver water to Lake Powell, the water stored in one of those reservoirs would be released to meet those requirements.

The details about demand management are still being worked out and, on Nov. 4, representatives from the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission provided the San Juan Water Commission with an update on those efforts.

Schmidt-Petersn said there is only a small chance that there will be a call on the river that would require the upper basin to curtail use, but the demand management proposal will protect the water users if such situation arose.

Currently, New Mexico is in the stakeholder outreach process of developing a demand management plant, according to Ali Effati, who presented on behalf of the Interstate Stream Commission.

Effati said demand management could be easier to set up in New Mexico than in other upper basin states due to the proximity to Lake Powell, however there are still questions that remain such as how to shepherd the water that is released to meet the compact requirement and make sure that it makes it into Lake Powell.

All four upper basin states — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — must agree on demand management and storage, as must the Upper Colorado River Commission. This type of agreement may be hard to achieve, Schmidt-Petersen warned, as each state works to protect its own interest in the Colorado River water.

San Juan Water Commissioner Jim Dunlap, who represents rural water users, emphasized the importance of having a way to meet the Colorado River Compact requirements even if a drought reduces the flows significantly in the rivers.

Navajo Lake

New Mexico currently does not use all the water that it is allocated and Dunlap said that furnishes a “false benefit” to the lower basin states and could lead to challenges if New Mexico chose to increase its utilization of its allocated water.

Farmington Community Works Director David Sypher highlighted an area that could create challenges: how to fairly share the burden of water shortages. If a drought does occur, entities will have to cut back. But Sypher said the City of Farmington has already invested in efforts to conserve water such as leak detection, storage and maintenance. This has led to higher water rates for customers.

Sypher said conservation is a huge part, if not the most important part, of demand management.

#ColoradoSprings faces $2 million fine, $43 million in projects after proposed #stormwater settlement — KRDO

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From KRDO (Scott Harrison):

The city would pay a fine of $2 million and commit to an additional $43 million in stormwater projects over 15 years, Mayor John Suthers announced earlier this week.

Suthers said “an agreement in principle” exists for a settlement between the city — the defendant in the case — and the plaintiffs including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Pueblo County and the lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

“We’re now entering a 30-day comment period,” he said. “At the end of it, the judge will evaluate whether he wants to approve the settlement. I suspect he will.”

The mayor said that in the next few weeks, city officials will explain settlement details to the public, and that he already has City Council approval to pay the penalty.

“The federal government would get $1 million of the fine, and the state would get the other half,” he said. “The state’s share actually goes into a current project in the Arkansas River. That’s a lot better than a $12 million fine that was initially discussed.”

As a result of the penalty, however, Suthers said the city will have to raise its stormwater fee to homeowners and businesses over the next 15 years to pay the penalty…

Suthers said the city’s stormwater issues were a result of inaction by previous city councils, but upon his election as mayor in 2015 he pledged to address the issue and heal the rift between Pueblo County leaders, who had threatened to sue the city.

In fact, in the spring of 2016, Pueblo County agreed on a long-range plan in which the city would spend $460 million over 20 years on 71 stormwater projects, maintenance and enforcement.

To help generate the needed revenue, Suthers in 2017 pushed for the re-establishment of a stormwater fee ultimately passed by voters that November…

The city hoped its progress on stormwater issues would prevent a lawsuit, but in November 2016 the EPA initially filed suit and the other plaintiffs joined in. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch presided over the weeklong bench trial in Denver in September 2018, and issued his ruling two months later.

The #Colorado #Climate Voter’s Guide To The #2020Election Results — Colorado Public Radio

Gothic mountain shrouded in clouds behind several cabins in the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado, USA. By Charlie DeTar – Own workby uploader, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4795644

From Colorado Public Radio (Joe Wertz, Michael Elizabeth Sakas, and Sam Brasch):

After days of uncertainty and delayed counting, Joe Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States on Saturday — a historic vote that will likely have profound effects on federal environment and energy policy, and the country’s response and adaptation to the hazards of climate change…

In Colorado, voters broke 52.3 percent for Biden and 42.1 percent for Trump, preliminary data shows.

Throughout the campaign, Biden pledged to restore environmental regulations reversed or weakened during the Trump administration, including the Endangered Species Act and rollbacks of methane and mercury rules. Biden also talked up a more-progressive environmental agenda that would see the U.S. rejoin the Paris climate agreement, ban new oil and gas drilling on public lands and promote renewable energy.

Climate change is an increasingly critical motivating issue for a segment of the Colorado electorate. Recent polling finds that well over half of Coloradans think the U.S. government should do more than its doing now to address it.

Here’s a quick review of some key climate change and environmental outcomes from Colorado’s 2020 election.

John Hickenlooper

U.S. Senate

Winner: John Hickenlooper

Background: Colorado’s former two-term Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, defeated Republican incumbent Cory Gardner in the race for the Senate by nearly 10 percentage points. Both candidates touted their environmental records, but only Hickenlooper highlighted climate change as a major platform issue, calling it “the defining challenge of our time.”

In his acceptance speech, Hickenlooper said that, “Regardless of which party ends up controlling the Senate, I want you to know that I will work with anyone and everyone to help Coloradans… to protect our planet, and address the nightmare of these endless wildfires by tackling climate change.”

If Biden wins the presidency, he would need support from both the House and the Senate to pass major pieces of his $2 trillion climate plan…

Gardner has often refused to acknowledge human-caused climate change, and focused instead on his public lands and conservation record, including the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. But conservationist saw Gardner’s record as problematic, for things like not stopping the Trump administration from rolling back clean air and water rules.

Denver’s Brown Cloud via the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

Denver Climate Tax

Result: Ballot Measure 2A passes

Background: Denverites signed off on 2A, a measure that increases sales and use taxes levied on most goods by .25 percent, according to unofficial election results. The proposal should generate about $36 million a year to fund programs to combat and adapt to climate change, including cleaner transportation, upgrades to infrastructure and improving the energy-efficiency of streets and local homes and buildings.

Other cities have adopted more direct taxes on carbon emissions, but the Denver climate tax is unique. Opponents worried about the disproportionate impact of hiking the sales tax, which many consider “regressive” because they’re paid equally by people with different income levels.

Image from Grand County on June 6, 2020 provided courtesy of Jessica Freeman via Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Wolf Reintroduction

Result: Proposition 114 passes

Background: Coloradoans approved Proposition 114, which clears a path for state wildlife authorities to bring wolves back to the Western Slope by 2024.

The Associated Press had not officially called a winner in the campaign by the time this story was published, but proponents of the measure declared victory, opponents conceded defeat and state wildlife officials expect the measure to pass.

Supporters said reintroducing wolves will positively affect other animals’ evolution and support biodiversity in an ecosystem that was long shaped by the predators.

Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

Boulder: 2C and 2D

Result: Ballot Measure 2C and 2D likely to pass

Background: Ten years ago, Boulder voters rejected a new franchise agreement with Xcel Energy and decided instead to pursue a city-run electric utility, which proponents said would give residents more control over the source of the county’s electricity and pollution that fuels climate change.

In approving 2C, Boulder voters agreed to pause the municipalization effort and re-enter a 20-year franchise arrangement with Xcel, part of a settlement agreement in which the utility said it will slash carbon emissions from Boulder operations at least 80 percent by 2030.

Boulder voters also appear to have voted to pass 2D, which extends a city utility tax originally enacted to pay for municipalization expenses. The measure repurposes the tax to fund to-be-determined green energy projects.

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Colorado River Water Conservation District: Ballot Measure 7A

Result: Approved, according to preliminary count — 163,384 votes in favor; 61,689 opposed

Background: Western Slope voters approved a property tax increase to fund various projects designed to improve and secure water supplies for the 15-county Colorado River Water Conservation District, preliminary results show

Ballot Measure 7A will raise property taxes by a half-mill in 2021 and is expected to bring in $4.9 million, most of which will fund projects that improve the quality and availability of water throughout the Colorado River watershed, which is threatened by climate change.