On Aug. 21, the Colorado Supreme Court granted a petition filed by the City of Boulder, Colorado, asking the high court to review a lower court’s decision in a case involving the city’s effort to create a local electric utility. The court order stems from a challenge originally filed by Xcel Energy in 2014.
Boulder, a city of 100,000, located 35 miles northwest of Denver, has sought for the last several years to find a way to reduce the carbon content of its energy supply and has been pursuing the option of creating a local public power utility as one way of doing that.
In a news release, Boulder outlined the history of the case.
In April 2014, the Boulder City Council passed an ordinance creating a local electric utility. “Although the city has not yet made a final decision about whether to municipalize, if the city does decide to proceed and issue bonds, it will need to have an entity established that can do so,” the city explained in the Aug. 25 news release.
In June 2014, Xcel Energy — the investor-owned electric utility that serves Boulder — filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that the Boulder City Council's formation of a utility was "premature" and that Boulder had failed to meet requirements laid out in the City Charter.
In June 2015, Boulder District Court Judge Judith L. LaBuda upheld the Boulder City Council’s 2014 decision to create an electric utility, finding that Xcel Energy had failed to comply with the requirements of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure and dismissing a claim that the city council’s decision was unlawful.
Xcel appealed the decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals. In September 2016, the appellate court vacated the district court’s decision, holding that the challenge was premature because the council’s decisions were not final and therefore not subject to judicial review.
The city filed its petition for certiorari with the Colorado Supreme Court on Dec. 2, 2016.
The court has provided a briefing schedule for the parties in the case [Supreme Court Case No. 2016SC894].
Boulder noted in its news release that it “will be making no additional comment on this case as it is pending litigation.”
An analysis released by Boulder late last year found that creating a public power utility there would be cost effective over 20 years. The city also released a “financial forecast tool” that members of the public could use to do their own calculations on the economics of creating a locally owned utility.
PUC decision expected soon regarding transfer of assets
Three years ago, Boulder filed a condemnation petition in Boulder District Court to acquire portions of Xcel’s distribution system that are necessary for the municipality to begin operating a utility.
In February 2017, the City of Boulder and the University of Colorado Boulder finalized an electric service agreement in case the city begins operation of a public power utility.
In May, Boulder filed its Third Supplemental Verified Application with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. In this application, the city asks the PUC to approve the transfer of certain utility assets owned by Xcel Energy subsidiary Public Service Company of Colorado to Boulder. The city said that it will need these assets for the operation of a municipal electric utility.
The PUC held several days of hearings on Boulder’s application in late July and early August, and is expected to issue a decision in that matter soon.