The joint task force working on alternatives to municipalization has disbanded, the city of Boulder and Xcel Energy announced Thursday.
In a news release from the city and Xcel, officials said they could not reach consensus about revisions to the group's operating agreement that addressed how information and documents presented in connection to the task force would be protected from use in future litigation.
The task force, whose meetings are closed to the public, met Wednesday evening, and the decision to disband was made then.
Boulder has announced its intention to acquire Xcel Energy's distribution assets in the city and nearby areas, which is the first step toward filing for condemnation and the city's eventual formation of a municipal electric utility.
Both parties anticipate there will be lengthy litigation in district court about the value of Xcel's assets, and before state and federal regulators, over how the distribution system will be separated and whether Boulder will owe Xcel for stranded costs to cover investments Xcel made to serve the city.
But in an interview, city spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said the lack of agreement around the operating terms was just one issue. She said it is "disappointing" that Xcel will not keep working with Boulder.
"City staff had been optimistic that Xcel was committed to giving the community an opportunity to see just what the company is willing to do to meet our energy goals," she said. "Without any proposal to evaluate, our community is left to believe that the answer to this question is nothing."
Xcel Energy spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said the company had agreed with the city and the task force members to issue a joint statement, and there would be a time and a place for discussions of its dispute with the city.
"Yesterday when the task force met, they were very specific that they wanted us to release a joint statement," she said. "That's what we did. We're going to honor the wishes of the task force. The city violated that."
Task force members reached by phone also they had agreed not to speak to the media and referred to the joint statement.
The task force began meeting in April last year, and city officials hoped the group made up of community members with expertise in energy issues or representing certain constituencies would focus on possible partnerships that would change the relationship between Xcel and Boulder and give the city more control over the sources of its power.
But Xcel Energy was not interested in the partnership opportunities, and the task force's work shifted toward analyzing new products and services that Xcel might offer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Xcel Energy said it will no longer present its package of products and services to the Boulder City Council in June, as planned, but instead will present new offerings to the Public Utilities Commission later this year.
According to the news release, some task force members will remain engaged in the process but will work separately with the city or with Xcel.
Many City Council members expressed frustration in December that Xcel was not considering a more radical departure from its business practices, while Xcel officials said they have to think about programs that work for all their customers and that will be acceptable to the PUC.
Huntley said that in the final task force meetings, Xcel executives expressed concerns their ideas would not get a fair hearing from the city. Huntley said the city had described the methodology that would be used to evaluate Xcel's proposals and that city officials were very interested in Xcel's ideas.
"There is little doubt that some council members have strong feelings about municipalization and Xcel; the company is missing an important point," she said. "Boulder City Council serves at the pleasure of Boulder voters, all of whom are Xcel customers. They're walking away from an opportunity to speak directly and transparently to those they serve and those they wish to influence. This is unfortunate for all involved."
Huntley said Boulder is hopeful that the proposal Xcel eventually brings to the PUC will reduce emissions and improve customer choice, but the city will not stop moving forward with its plans for a municipal utility.