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Colorado Unbundling Bill Awaits House Vote

Colorado Unbundling Bill Awaits House Vote

Legislation prescribing voluntary unbundling of Colorado's gas distribution industry has now gone to a state House appropriations committee. The sponsor of SB 153, Sen. David T. Owen, said he expects it to pass with little or no trouble. Unlike legislation that unbundled Georgia's gas industry, the Colorado legislation does not delve into specifics of unbundling but rather leaves them up to the state Public Utility Commission (PUC).

"Our perspective on the legislation is we're in favor of it," said Public Service of Colorado spokesman Mark Salley. "We think it's good. It's a continuation of a gas deregulation effort last year that we supported." He said he did not know when Public Service would choose to open its system to competition. When asked whether there was anything about the legislation the company did not like, Salley said he didn't know of anything and said the bill has "a reasonable balance."

However, potentially contentious issues, such as capacity assignment, provider of last resort and whether LDCs should be forced to exit the merchant function, will have to be hammered out by the PUC. One concern that was dealt with in the Senate was a provision that would allow some municipal utilities to keep from public eyes information deemed to be sensitive from a competitive standpoint. The bill was amended to require a public hearing to determine which municipal utility records could be closed. Opposition to closing municipality records from public view comes from those who say they benefit from tax breaks and low-interest loans at the public's expense.

The Colorado legislative session closes at the end of May.

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