(April 26) – A bill by Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, to protect jobs for working people in Pueblo and around the state while reducing utility costs for Colorado ratepayers passed the House Transportation & Energy Committee this afternoon.

HB17-1339, sponsored by Reps. Esgar and Chris Hansen, D-Denver, puts the bond market to work to help local communities adapt to an evolving economy while ensuring Colorado’s smooth transition to cleaner, more efficient energy sources.

“This bill uses private investments to save money for ratepayers, help impacted workers and communities, and keep utilities operating efficiently – all without adding costs to Colorado’s state budget,” Rep. Hansen said.

“By tapping private investment to hold down energy costs, lend support to impacted communities and workers, and boost investment in renewable power generation, we can drive economic growth and protect jobs in Colorado,” Rep. Esgar said.

As Colorado’s energy portfolio changes and electric generating plants are updated or retired for economic reasons, including competition from natural gas and wind and solar, workers and communities must adapt.

When power plants – Xcel’s coal-fired Comanche plant in Pueblo and the municipally-owned Drake coal-fired plant in Colorado Springs are two examples — reach the end of their service, they often leave behind “stranded” investment that still needs to be paid for by ratepayers. If these investments can be refinanced at lower rates, consumers pay less to pay off the remaining debt, resulting in lower electric rates.

Under the bill, 15 percent of the refinancing savings would be directed to community and worker impact mitigation. Communities that lose tax base when generating plants retire could apply for transition assistance, and laid-off workers could benefit from retraining programs and other assistance. That aid would provide new economic opportunities to people in communities adapting to Colorado’s evolving energy economy.

“How can we be sure that we can retrain displaced workers, and how can we protect our communities from the loss of tax base?” Rep. Esgar asked. “This bill provides a soft landing for communities and the families who live in them.”

The Transportation & Energy Committee voted 8-5 to send HB17-1339 to the House floor.

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