DENVER (KDVR) — If you have something to say about your utility bills, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission wants to hear about it. 

The PUC said it is trying to learn how sky-high gas and electric bills are affecting Coloradans. It hosted two public comment sessions Tuesday in hopes of understanding what changes need to be considered moving forward.

Choosing between food, health care and heating

“I’ve lived in my house over 30 years and I have never received a bill for over $300,” Garry Martinez, of Denver, said. 

He said his last three bills were $376, $450 and $550 and that he is now being forced to decide between keeping his home warm or having enough food to eat. 

“We need some help here, guys. We need some help for elderly people. We need to help families that are struggling, like myself. It’s just frustrating, you know?” Martinez said. 

“I’ve lived here 47 years. The highest bill I’ve ever had was $400 in all those years. And now we’re over $700. What’s it going to go up to? A thousand?” Candy Lewis said. 

Jeanette Neubauer told the PUC she is looking to sell her home because she can not afford the utility bills any longer. 

Sabrina Padilla said she works with people who use medical devices that provide life support and that many are choosing to forego their oxygen machines in order to save on their electric bills. 

“I just spoke with an older gentleman on SSI (Supplemental Security Income) who sits in his home all day in a winter jacket and has his heat all the way down to 60 degrees to keep his bill down,” Padilla said.

Natural gas bills 75% higher this year

According to PUC’s chief economist, natural gas bills are 75% higher compared to this time last year and are the primary reason utility bills are more expensive than usual. However, many who spoke during the public comment session voiced concerns about PUC-approved base utility rate hikes, which is the part of the bill that utility companies profit from. 

“Heat is not a luxury. Electricity is not a luxury. But they are doubling and tripling bills for no reason. They’re not struggling. They are making record profits,” Maury Cohen said. 

PUC Chairman Eric Blank told listeners that commissioners would not be answering specific questions but that they would use the information and testimonials from public comment to guide their decisions going forward. 

“I think there are things we can do. I think we can look at the disconnect policies, I think we can look at how gas prices flow into rates, see if there’s ways of managing that better than we have in the past,” he said. “Hedging gas prices going forward, and there are multiple electric rate case proceedings before us, so there are things we can do and will be talking about in the coming days and weeks. It’s just very hard for us to give direct answers in this context.”

Where to submit comments on utility bills

The PUC is encouraging Coloradans to submit comments and concerns about their utility bills. They also have an in-depth breakdown of the reasons utility bills are more expensive

If you are having trouble paying your utility bill, help is available

Starting in February, natural gas charges are expected to drop by 25%.