Jerry Kopel

Taxi Licensing, Energy Credits, and DORA

Nov. 16, 2007

By Jerry Kopel


What consumers would like to know: (1) That they can get a taxicab without too much hassle and for reasonable cost. (2) That if they help reduce Global Warming, they will be rewarded. (3) How the Office of Consumer Counsel can provide greater participation on matters than affect consumer health and costs.

Those are three of the 16 recommendations from the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) 2007 Sunset Report on the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).


Most arguments are between "no regulation of taxicab services" and "putting the burden of proof for a new taxi company on the persons proposing such a company". DORA's research team suggests a middle ground: Put the burden of proof on those existing companies that claim there is no need for a new company.

DORA recognizes that taxi deregulation in other states "leads to oversupply, price gouging and poor customer service....In an open entry system, companies have the incentive to put as many cabs on the street as there are drivers willing to pay lease fees and thus fail to act as a gateway control to entry."

Hopefully, lobbyists for opponents won't mask the issue by harping about "phantom deregulation." DORA sets out the tremendous hurdles a proponent must overcome to operate as a common carrier. "The (present) regulatory process in Colorado regarding market entry is one that serves to protect business from competition...not Colorado consumers."

DORA wants the burden of proof reversed so existing carriers "are required to prove that granting the applicant's certificate of authority would result in harm to consumers". I assume such harm would result from an oversupply.

How a reversal of burden of proof is drafted should be the issue. DORA points out "The PUC will maintain regulatory oversight over vehicle safety and insurance compliance."

The PUC many need to set up an auditing process and a limited time on an original charter to satisfy concerns that qualifications are being met and consumers are being benefited, thus reducing present taxi company fears.


Closing a loophole. In 2004, a citizen initiative entitled Amendment 37 passed 1,066,023 to 922,577. It required investor-owned utilities to generate or purchase a portion of their electric power from renewable energy sources beginning in 2007.

In 2007, the legislature passed HB 1281 which "expanded renewable energy targets to cooperative electricity associations and some municipal electric utilities, but exempt from a mandate of incorporating customer-sited generation and net-metering".

Customer-sited generation, for example, would include use of solar panels to produce relatively small scale electricity at the customer's location. Net metering occurs when customer-sited generation produces mores electricity than that customer can use. It returns unused electricity to the power grid, the customer's meter goes backwards and the customer receives credit for the reduced grid use.

According to DORA, in 2005 "29 municipal electric utilities and 26 cooperative electric associations controlled 41 percent of Colorado's electricity market." Under HB 1281, they were given a choice. "They need not offer customer-sited generation incentives or net metering." Hence, the loophole.

DORA states "customer-sited generation serves to help the utility satisfy renewable energy portfolio requirements" without adopting net metering.

"Apparently, at least 18 states have implemented statewide net metering" claims DORA as it presents this editorial: "Amendment 37 was passed by the people of Colorado, not just the customers of Colorado's larger investor-owned utilities. All Colorado should be able to actively participate in the greening of the state's energy portfolio, and, at present, they are not". Well, they can participate, but for some, without a financial incentive.


DORA is interested in providing the PUC with additional expertise in such areas as environmental and health costs, since these subjects could result in higher utility rates and higher health care costs borne by all Colorado people.

"The PUC lacks institutional knowledge and expertise to address air and water quality ... environmental effect and public health, and economic and employment ratifications of utilizing new technologies..."

As one of many additional helping sources, DORA believes it would be beneficial to allow the Office of Consumer Counsel, when they are already authorized to participate under present law in utility rates, charges and service quality issues, to intervene in those other named areas.

That, according to DORA, should reduce the number of other parties who presently seek to intervene because their interests are not adequately represented by any existing party.

* * *

There are 87 pages in the DORA Sunset Report on the PUC. And after reviewing Sunset Reports for the past 30 years, I can honestly state this is one of the best, comprehensive, detailed, and thorough reports I have read.

But it is a hard read, and from my past legislative service, I know the eyes of legislators glaze over after ten pages of anything. So hopefully these reviews will ease that burden.

This column will attempt in the future to highlight other recommendations than the three discussed above.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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