The Colorado Springs City Council (in its dual capacity as the Utility Board) met Wednesday and ignored Xcel Energy’s June 28 offer to enter into a non-disclosure agreement with Xcel subsidiary Public Service Company of Colorado “with the specific intent of exploring over the next 60 days if there is a value proposition that would provide for PSCo’s acquisition of and assumption of operations for CSU’s generation fleet.”
Councilmembers sounded different notes of the same song. Colorado Springs residents would “lose local control of their utility and electric rates.” The impact on ratepayers would be immediate and substantial, causing electric rates to rise “30 to 40 percent.” There’s “a very close connection between local ownership and low rates.”
“I don’t see a great value in moving forward with this,” said Council President Keith King. “It’s not a good time for us to go off on this kind of thing.”
The board instructed Utilities CEO Jerry Forte to respond to Xcel’s indication of interest with a letter saying “very politely, thank you, but we’re not interested.”
After Forte said similar overtures might come from other investor-owned utilities, the board suggested that he simply send the same letter to any and all suitors.
It was a curious performance, coming as it did from a board utterly without expertise in the business of electrical power generation.
Given an opportunity to get a free independent assessment of the system’s value from a third party, the board passed.
What were the board members afraid of? Did they suspect they might get an offer that would be difficult to refuse? Or are they convinced that any right-thinking person would stick with the status quo?
In any case, they took the path of least resistance, like a low-voltage electric current.
But the final word, as always, belonged to Councilor Joel Miller, an unabashed fan of municipal ownership.
“Why did this offer coincide with op-eds and editorials in the media?” Miller asked darkly from the dais. “Certain forces (have come together in this) that want southwest downtown development or 30 percent renewable (energy portfolios).”
It was a Travis Bickel moment. Sitting beside another reporter, I suggested that we stand up, glower and say, “You talkin’ to ME?”
Councilman Miller, you’re right! I applaud your acuity — and yes, it was me. I enlisted the Sierra Club, Xcel Energy, six powerful developers and Gazette owner Phil Anschutz in a brazen conspiracy to raise electric rates and line our pockets with the proceeds.
My partners will make millions — and they’re taking care of me as well. As soon as the takeover is completed, we’ll all meet at the food trucks, and they’re buying.
We’re talking cheese quesadillas and a diet coke — a $5 lunch! Not bad for a starving journalist…