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SCOTUS begins issuing new opinions, with another expected related to the power of federal agencies, the battleground state of Wisconsin gets a ruling on alternative voting sites, and coastal work is being done to help salt marshes withstand hurricanes.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

'Rate Payer Revolt' in CO Calls for Ending Dependence on Gas-Fired Energy

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Thursday, April 13, 2023   

Consumer advocates held a "Rate Payer Revolt" at the Colorado State Capitol yesterday, urging lawmakers to address what they see as the root cause of the recent extreme spikes in utility bills - the state's reliance on natural gas.

Danny Katz, executive director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group - said lawmakers and utilities should take steps to protect ratepayers by tapping new federal funds to speed up the transition to sources such as wind and solar, which are produced locally and are not commodities traded on a global market.

"And if we want to make sure that we are not getting ripped off as consumers into the future," said Katz, "we need to do more to reduce our reliance on gas to heat and power our homes and businesses."

Xcel Energy has blamed spikes in heating bills on rising wholesale gas prices and market forces beyond its control. It has launched a cost-adjustment plan to give consumers some relief.

CoPIRG and other groups are urging the Legislature to take steps to lower the state's dependence on gas - including maximizing efficiency and ending ratepayer subsidies for new gas infrastructure, lobbying and legal expenses.

Xcel and other utilities have added clean-energy capacity, but continue to see natural gas as an important source for meeting peak energy demand and keeping the grid working at night and when the wind isn't blowing.

Katz said we now have roadmaps and technologies - including increased storage capacity, and regulating peak demand via smart appliances - to wean ourselves off of natural gas.

"Twenty years ago, maybe we didn't have the technology, and maybe we needed to have a much more diverse portfolio," said Katz. "But I think we've seen the price of renewables have come down, the capacity that we have to put more energy from renewables has gone up."

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is more than 85 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 and is a major source of climate pollution.

Katz said he believes now is the time for utilities across the state to move away from a fuel source subject to global supply chains and disruptive geo-political events.

"There's a lot of federal infrastructure money coming in as well," said Katz. "So there's never been a better time for utilities to step up and say, 'OK, we can start to reduce this reliance and move away from gas.'"




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