Utilities commission meeting draws zero

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— Maybe it was the fact that "Survivor," the popular television show, comes on at 7 p.m., but, when a regulatory agency judge called a meeting to order Thursday to discuss a potential Greeley Gas rate increase, the 13 people in attendance were all either employees of Greeley Gas or the Office of Consumer Counsel. Similar meetings in Greeley and Gunnison have attracted a total of zero people from the public.

The public hearings are meant to give the Public Utilities Commission a chance to hear comments on the proposed rate increase. PUC Spokesman Terry Bote said the PUC will not necessarily take the absence of public comment as evidence of a lack of concern on the part of local residents.

The proposed increase does not have to do with the sharp increase in natural gas commodity prices instead, Greeley Gas is attempting to push another increase through to pay for investments in the company's delivery system along with technology-based and productivity improvements, said Greeley Gas Public Affairs Manager Karen Wilkes. Greeley Gas, which serves about 90,000 customers in Colorado, wants to increase its rates by $4.28 million annually. On average that would mean an increase of $2.04 for residences and $8.87 for commercial enterprises in Steamboat every month, said Barbara Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the PUC.

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