Xcel Energy intends to form an issue committee to support a charter amendment that would require a second vote before Boulder could form a municipal electric utility.
In a letter to city officials, an attorney with Xcel Energy said the company wants to create an issue committee related to the proposed charter amendment and asked for clarification about whether that committee should be formed now or after the petitions are certified to place the amendment on the November ballot.
"In an abundance of caution and in the event we decide to support the above-referenced petition, we would like to form an issue committee today," said the letter, which was hand-delivered Friday to Boulder City Clerk Alisa Lewis.
Jerome Davis, Xcel Energy regional vice president, is listed as treasurer and chairman of the committee in the letter.
Xcel spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said last week that the energy company likely would support the measure if it made it onto the ballot. She said Monday the company wants to be in full compliance with city rules and is waiting for clarification from the city about the appropriate time to register issue committees.
Boulder code says committees must make a disclosure within three days of spending money or receiving a contribution, but the definition of issue committees refers to ballot propositions. The charter amendment is not yet on the ballot.
The Boulder City Council is expected to clarify the requirements Tuesday night as part of a broader discussion of financial disclosure regulations.
Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said most people in Boulder assumed that Xcel would support the charter amendment, which he believes will "kill" a city-owned electric utility, and he's glad that's out in the open.
"Transparency is always better," he said. "They should also indicate where their money is coming from, which is their ratepayers and not their shareholders, and what the intent of this charter amendment is, which is to kill municipalization."
Aguayo said money Xcel spends on political campaigns is not factored into its rates, so that money comes out of profits that would otherwise go to shareholders.
The charter amendment would require voter approval of the debt limit and total repayment costs of bonds issued by the municipal utility, and it would require that the service area of the utility not extend outside city limits unless affected county residents could vote in the debt limit election.
Backers of the charter amendment say the 2011 vote that authorized the City Council to issue bonds to form an electric utility was so close and the expense is so large that voters need another say.
Supporters of municipalization say the charter amendment would make it very difficult for the city to enter into condemnation proceedings against Xcel Energy to acquire the distribution system in Boulder or even to issue bonds to pay for things like infrastructure improvements.
They also say there is no mechanism for county residents to vote in a city election.
The city says it needs to include about 5,800 county residents in its service area to maintain a complete and reliable distribution system.
The Boulder residents who filed the statement of intent to circulate petitions earlier this month say they are not working with Xcel Energy on the proposal. However, Xcel Energy conducted polling in April on the exact ballot language submitted to the city.
Phil Fox, a spokesman for the group, Voter Approval of Debt Limits, said he was not aware that Xcel intended to form an issue committee, but he welcomes the support.
"I think we're picking up good local support to get the 5,000 signatures onto the ballot," he said. "After that, we'd be thrilled to have Xcel's support and anyone else's, for that matter."
Supporters of municipalization have asked repeatedly whether the amendment group will use paid petition circulators. Fox previously told the Camera that it would if it has the money to do so, but for now, they will be volunteers.
Aguayo said she could not say Monday whether Xcel would pay for petition circulators.
"We made it clear going back to 2011 that we want to hear from our customers and will work with our customers on shared areas of concern," she said. "At what level that happens still has to be determined."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.