Another obstacle has emerged in Boulder’s years-long quest to form a municipal electric utility: a state regulatory agency.
Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission on Thursday filed a motion in Boulder District Court to dismiss the city’s legal action aimed at condemning Xcel Energy’s assets.
Boulder in June filed a petition against Xcel after the city received no response from the private power provider to an $82 million offer to buy its transmission grid and other system parts within the city.
But the state claims it still has more work to do that is outside the court’s purview before Boulder can proceed with litigation to condemn, price and acquire Xcel property.
“This condemnation action is premature,” the state commission’s filing states. “The PUC has exclusive jurisdiction to approve the designation of assets for transfer from (Xcel) to Boulder to form Boulder’s new municipal electric utility.”
The state has not taken a stance against Boulder’s desire to form a municipally owned electric utility, only the timing with which the city has sought court opinions in the matter, commission spokesperson Terry Bote said.
“The PUC does not oppose Boulder’s formation of a municipal electric utility,” Bote said. “Boulder has not yet received final approval from the PUC on a list of assets that is to be transferred, as required by previous PUC decision and confirmed by the Boulder District Court. The city just made its required asset filing with the PUC last week, but it still must be reviewed and approved.”
City Councilman Bob Yates said the development reminds him of a 2014 move by the city to condemn Xcel’s assets without first going to the state commission for approval, that ultimately resulted in Boulder being told it would have to go through state channels to condemn and purchase Xcel’s property.
“It’s déjà vu all over again,” Yates said. “… I think the city staff has been trying to figure this out and had a few false starts. … I’m not faulting the city staff because there has been no road map and formula for how this is done.”
Yates has been an outspoken critic of the municipalization effort, arguing the initiative should be reexamined by council and perhaps voters in light of Xcel energy promises late last year to significantly boost its renewable energy portfolio and laws passed by the state this year with ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.