Boulder, Xcel Dispute Reaches Colorado Supreme Court

Supreme Court oral arguments focus on finality of utility ordinances

Last week, the City of Boulder cleared another hurdle in its efforts to secure permission to operate its own utility company. The Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case brought against the city by Xcel subsidiary Public Service Company of Colorado.

The move by the city to create an independent power and light utility began in November 2011. Boulder voters amended the Boulder Home Rule Charter to create the utility. The amendment was contingent upon the city demonstrating that it wouldn’t charge higher rates than incumbent Xcel and would be able to acquire the existing electrical distribution system in the city.

During oral arguments, the parties discussed the two ordinances passed by the city — ordinances 7917 and 7969 — to determine the validity of the Court of Appeals ruling that the ordinances were not final. The first ordinance, 7917, required an independent third party to ensure the city could meet the requirements, and the second, 7969, established the city’s rights in creating a utility.

The Court of Appeals ruling noted that additional revisions were made after the passage and that there are “significant unresolved issues as to the financial viability and reliability of the utility.”

Several justices pushed back on this point of changing conditions after the passage of the ordinance.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the February 19, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.