DENVER, CO – Last week, Boulder City council voted 8:1 to adopt Ordinance 8302, authorizing “the acquisition of property interests used or owned by Public Services Company of Colorado d/b/a Xcel energy, for the electric distribution facilities to serve the city, by negotiation and purchase or through the power of eminent domain, [emphasis added] and setting forth related details”.
Boulder has long sought to municipalize power since it supported a 2011 ballot measure to create and operate a city-owned “smart grid.” Opponents to the ordinance have decried the plan based on the likelihood of a negative return on investment, ballooning costs, and a projected 30% rate increase for customers of the municipal utility.
Even with these calls for pragmatism, the Boulder City Council has soldiered on. The council’s negotiation with Xcel is contingent upon a “good faith negotiation” with the utility. However, the attitude of the council suggests that they will likely be the bad actor. The city council spent a large portion of the meeting exploring hypotheticals of what would constitute “bad faith” with counsel, seemingly in the hopes of being able to exercise powers of eminent domain.
“The potential that a municipality would use government force to seize Xcel’s assets should send a warning to any business owners who enjoy real property rights within the city,” said Adam Johnson, communications director of Compass Colorado.
“This is the equivalent of offering to pay for a bag of Funyuns while holding up a convenience store,” said Compass Colorado executive director Kelly Maher. “This sounds more like an extortion scheme from the get-go. If the Boulder City Council truly wanted to negotiate in good faith they wouldn’t threaten government seizure.”