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Boulder Continues Pursuit of Municipal Utility

In Breaking News, Featured, Morning Magazine

On Tuesday, Xcel Energy announced a plan to dramatically reduce carbon emissions by 2050. As KGNU’s Roz Brown reports, it was the same day Boulder City Council was weighing whether to proceed with a condemnation lawsuit against Xcel in the ongoing effort to municipalize city utilities.

 

 

Xcel Energy has committed to reduce carbon emissions in the eight states it serves, by 80 percent in 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.  On Tuesday, Brad Siegel told city council he thinks Boulder and its residents deserve a little credit for that.

 

“I’d like folks to remember that one of the reasons Xcel is doing this is because of the efforts we’ve taken to push them,” said Siegel.

 

Xcel promised to permanently move away from fossil fuels and aggressively pursue renewables. It just happened to be the same day a vote was scheduled by Boulder City Council on whether to pursue a lawsuit against the company in order to acquire property owned by Xcel that would ultimately allow Boulder to proceed with its nearly decade-old goal to municipalize utilities. Despite the announcement from Xcel hours earlier, the majority of speakers addressing city council, including Conor May, encouraged the path toward municipalization.

 

“This is about more than just climate change, it’s also about climate and economic justice and having cites take the lead and control their own destiny,” said May. “This announcement from Xcel is non-binding and falls short of Boulder’s own goals.”

 

Ajana Lowrey was one of several CU students who urged council to proceed, noting Boulder’s original goal to be a model for other cities.

“It’s a scary time to be young person,” said Lowrey. “Clearly the constituents in the city are informed and care about being involved in their community. It’s imperative that local governments take the initiative.”

But not everyone was supportive of moving ahead with the muni. Renewal energy and utility reform advocate Karey Christ-Janer said she was originally a fan, but has changed her mind and now thinks Boulder should work with Xcel.

 

“I’m proud of Xcel Energy and they are making a difference and I believe they will be a model for other utilities in the nation,” said Christ-Janer.

 

Among the nine members Councilman Bob Yates was the only one to vote “no” on pushing forward with the muni. He cited the millions already spent by the city, and the costly and timing-consuming lawsuit against Xcel that lies ahead.

 

“We have checked-in with the voters several times, and each time the vote has been close,” said Yates. “Some residents have said we must vote for this lawsuit, in order to respect what they say was a mandate by voters, but I respectfully disagree.”

 

But councilman Sam Weaver and Mayor Suzanne Jones felt the most recent vote by citizens to proceed with municipalization should be honored.

“We have gone out to the voters four times and we’ve always received approval to continue and the last time they approved it they knew the timeline and how much it would cost,” said Weaver.

 

Jones added that the city would learn the total cost to taxpayers, and then let voters decide if it’s worth it. Boulder voters will have one more chance in the November 2020 election to make a go, or no-go decision on whether Boulder should create its own municipal utility. Boulderite Evan Freirich said he’s looking forward to that day.

 

“When our citizens next vote on the muni, Donald Trump will be up for re-election,” said Freirich. “I have a feeling our folks are going to come to polls in big numbers ­– we are David, and Xcel is Goliath.”