A bill that would allow public utility companies to build charging stations for electric vehicles is getting some strong opposition from unlikely allies.

Even though Senate Bill 77 has bipartisan support — it was introduced by Sens. Angela Williams, D-Denver, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson — Republicans and Democrats alike are questioning if it's good policy.

The bill, which cleared the Colorado Senate on an 18-17 vote Friday, would allow utility companies to provide charging ports or fueling stations for electric vehicles as a regulated service under the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, meaning they could pass on costs of building those stations to ratepayers.

Under current law, utilities already can build such ports, but at their own expense.

Williams and Priola said the bill is aimed at getting more such stations around Colorado to help boost the sale of more electric vehicles, which is why the bill has support of environmental groups and auto makers.

"We know that the growth in Colorado has been slow (in electric vehicle sales), and it's been all about the fear factor," Williams said. "If you leave Denver, you've got to know where you can plug in and charge up before you reach Vail. This bill will remove those barriers."

Opponents of the measure, however, say because the bill is limited to utilities regulated by the PUC, it won't allow for the installation of new charging ports in most of the state. That's because there are only two utilities it will impact: Black Hills Energy, which serves most of Pueblo County, and Xcel Energy, which provides power service in select areas of the state, such as Grand Junction and the Denver metropolitan area.

Under the bill, only a fraction of the state would see these new stations, and a fraction of the state's power ratepayers will bear the brunt of the bill, its opponent say. By law, the PUC can't regulate municipal power companies or rural electric associations, which provide electricity to the bulk of the state.

As a result, the bill has drawn the ire of such groups as AARP and Americans for Prosperity, two organizations that rarely agree on anything.

AARP spokeswoman Angela Cortez and other opponents said those two utilities only cover about 15 percent of the state.

"They should pay their own way," said Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley. "You get a $7,500 credit from the feds, $5,000 from the state (to buy an electric vehicle.) The thing that kills me is, we're subsidizing rich people.

"Sixty-seven percent of all the households that own electric vehicles make over $100,000 a year ... and now we have to subsidize those rich people that own electric vehicles once again."

Opponents also said that less than 1 percent of all vehicles in Colorado are electric, a figure that is expected to increase to 9 percent by 2030 and 15 percent by 2040.

The bill now heads to the Colorado House for more debate. 

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