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Boulder asks state regulators to reconsider ruling on acquisition process for possible local electric utility


From the December 3, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published December 3, 2013

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor
The city of Boulder, Colo., has asked the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to reconsider an Oct. 29 decision that would delay the city’s efforts to acquire Xcel Energy’s equipment and facilities if it decides to create a local electric utility. (See "Boulder, Colo., municipalization effort gets big boost from voters" in the Nov. 7 Public Power Daily.)

The application for rehearing "makes clear that Boulder concurs with many of the findings the PUC made on Oct. 29," the city said. The city "remains 100 percent committed, for example, to working with the PUC on issues that are within the commission’s jurisdiction and making sure that Boulder’s efforts do not negatively impact service or reliability for Xcel’s remaining customers," Boulder said.

On some points, however, the city does not agree. 

In its Nov. 18 filing with the state regulators, the city says the commission transcended the questions it was asked to consider and issued an overly broad ruling that overlooked the powers granted to the city by the Colorado Constitution. There are practical and legal reasons for the CPUC to reconsider its conclusion that it has the authority to decide which assets Boulder can acquire, the city said.

Boulder "also explains more fully why it would be premature for the commission to evaluate any transition plans until a condemnation proceeding has been initiated and discovery has been completed," the city said.

"Boulder has no objection to, and in fact is eager to work with commission staff to prepare the various plans necessary to make Boulder’s acquisition of the Public Service [Co. of Colorado] (Xcel) system that serves Boulder as cost-effective as possible, and to ensure that the electric system, both inside and outside of Boulder, is at least as safe and reliable as the current Public Service system," said Senior Assistant City Attorney Deb Kalish in the filing. "However, Boulder has the constitutional and statutory right to determine which assets it will acquire and the timing of any condemnation action that may be filed."

Heather Bailey, the city’s executive director for energy strategy and electric utility development, said the PUC’s ruling on these issues could have important implications.

"Boulder voters on Nov. 5 reaffirmed their desire to move forward with the creation of a local electric utility, provided that certain conditions can be met," Bailey said. "Determining the order of the required proceedings – and the scope of authority for each deciding body – is essential to charting out both the timeline and necessary work plan for moving forward."

"We are hopeful that the PUC will consider the city’s arguments and help us gain clarity around these questions in a way that is consistent with Colorado law," Bailey said. "We look forward to working with PUC staff and commissioners to address any concerns they have."

In late July, the City Council voted to begin condemnation proceedings to acquire the local electricity distribution system from investor-owned Xcel. (See the July 29 Public Power Daily.) 
 

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Jeanne Wickline LaBella
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