Hazlehurst: Council puts kibosh on Xcel’s interest in Utilities

EnergyThe 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…

2 Responses to Hazlehurst: Council puts kibosh on Xcel’s interest in Utilities

  1. I know that you being humerous is just the way you write, but the council dismissing this without even properly looking into it seems a bit strange. I’m not for it or against it, but to draft a letter that responds to all suitors the same way is a bit shortsighted in my opinion.

    David H. Moore
    July 18, 2014 at 8:34 am

  2. There was no need to entertain an offer, because there is no problem to fix. To play coy that you have been pushing for other results is disingenuous. You believe CSU is broke, and needs to be fixed. You want offers entertained, because you are open to selling the utilities. You want the board replaced, because you think the board needs replacing. And others in the community with other agendas and interests align with that. It’s insulting for you to claim otherwise.

    Public for profit companies such as Xcel are not broke. I’m sure they run a fine company. If I went to go work for them just down the road, my pocket would see a raise. But I don’t want to go down the road, and CSU is not broken. There are not a lot of 4 service utilities. Yet with all the incompetence at the helm, CSU manages to provide a nationally recognized utility for excellence. Reliability is the gold standard and we are at the top. All the while doing it for less cost to our rate payers. That economy of scale many love to mention about the big fish… yes indeed, Xcel would pay for the scrubbers, and we in turn would be paying for 20 other projects in many different states. None of which benefit us.

    It is really hard to get rid of what we have. A nationally recognized 4 service Utility for reliability and customer satisfaction with competitive pricing. The only way that can be done is to continue to beat the drum of an incompetent old broken down dinosaur that needs to be cashed out before the buyer recognizes how bad we shafted them. Yet the citizens of Colorado Springs have overwhelmingly said they want to keep their utilities, and indeed think it is a great well run asset. That has been my experience living here over 20 years. That the silent majority have no problem at all. It’s the vocal few with hidden agendas and self interests that continue to beat the drum for a broken Utility.

    It’s never good when the politicians start trying to figure out how to get into the Piggy Bank. It’s even worse when the media decides to help them. The Freedom of Press was protected to help us, not them. Selling the Utilities does not help us. Not one bit.

    Kevin
    July 18, 2014 at 11:04 am