By Amy Oliver Cooke with contributor Tyson Thornburg
A cursory review of the emails and letters sent to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) seems to indicate significant support for Xcel Energy’s costly and controversial Colorado Energy Plan. Our guess is that’s exactly what Xcel wants the media, the public, and the PUC to believe.
However, a deeper dive into the comments themselves may indicate something different, which we’ve highlighted below.
First, a little housekeeping. The comments quoted below are all a matter of public record and available on the Colorado PUC Web site. We’ve broken down the emails and letters into two “batches” based on their date and type of entity. The first batch is all dated between September 6 and October 9, 2017 and are either governmental or economic development entities or large corporate customers.
The second batch includes personal emails dated between November 2 and 6, 2017. Most used an email service called KnowWho. Who uses KnowWho? According to their Web site:
KnowWho is primarily used by organizations focused on grassroots, advocacy [sic], government relations, and lobbying, as well as law firms, government contractors, retail and digital services corporations, media outlets, third-party developers, and consultants.
Nothing says “grassroots” like dozens of emails that are exactly the same.
Coincidence or conspiracy?
What a coincidence that so many of the supporting commenters had the exact same ideas about the plan. In fact, their thinking is so similar that they used almost the exact same wording in their letters and emails. We don’t think it would take a tin foil hat to assume there might be some conspiring going on to create the illusion of public support. We’ve seen Xcel wage PR campaigns before. It’s not pretty.
Below are several of our favorite examples…
“Economic Development” to increase Xcel’s profits
Six economic development entities wrote the exact same sentence in separate letters:
In fact, Xcel Energy estimates approval of its proposal could lead to $2.5 billion in energy investments for the state, at no additional cost to the company’s electricity customers.
Exactly where do these groups think the $2.5 billion is coming from when Xcel plans to own 75 percent of the natural gas and 50 percent of the industrial wind?
Ratepayers foot the bill, which makes this phrase that appears in 13 letters completely ridiculous:
“At no additional cost to company’s electricity customers”
Other variations include the following:
- Without increasing costs to customers
- At no net cost to customers
- Secure low cost energy for its customers
- Saving customers money (our personal favorite)
Channeling Hick’s “spirit and intent”
Last July, Governor John Hickenlooper bypassed the state legislature and issued an executive order on which Xcel Energy predicates its controversial plan. For eight entities, keeping in spirt with Hick is very important – so important that they all wrote nearly the exact same thing.
In separate letters, the Towns of Frisco and Breckenridge along with Denver Public Schools (DPS) wrote:
This plan would also meet both the spirit and the letter of Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Order Supporting Colorado’s Energy Transition by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector and increasing the use of the renewable power.
And the City of Lafayette wrote:
This plan would also meet both the spirit and the letter of Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Order Supporting Colorado’s Energy Transition by offering a path to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase the use of renewable energy
While Adams 12 Five Star Schools wrote:
This plan would also meet the intent of Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Order Supporting Colorado’s Energy Transition by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector and increasing use of renewable power.
The Cities of Arvada, Northglenn and Lakewood wrote the exact same paragraph – word for word:
Finally, this plan would also meet both the spirit and the letter of Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Order Supporting Colorado’s Energy Transition by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector and increasing the use of the renewable power. Xcel Energy’s estimates show the Colorado Energy Plan will achieve a 45 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2012 levels by 2030.
DPS, Frisco and Breckenridge group think
All three begin their letter of support this way:
…stands in strong support of Xcel Energy’s plans to grow the state’s portfolio of wind power, solar power, natural gas, and other clean energy sources with its Colorado Energy Plan. With this proposal, Xcel Energy is responding to its customers’ wants and needs for increasingly clean energy at an affordable price.
Pretty remarkable that the three of them had the exact same opening. A teacher might accuse students of plagiarism if they turned in papers all beginning the exact same way.
Apparently corporations “understand”
Both IBM and Vail Resorts wrote in separate letters:
We understand the Stipulation is not asking for final approval of the proceeding, but is giving Xcel Energy permission to pursue a plan to secure low-cost clean energy for its customers.
While a collection of “national accounts customers” (Luxottica Retail, Target, Big Lots, COX Enterprises, Inc., Cinemark, PETCO, Inc., Costco, CKE Restaurants, LQ Management, Nordstrom, Staples, Hilton, and IHG) wrote collectively:
It is our understanding that the Stipulation under review by the Public Utilities Commission is not requesting final approval of Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan, but instead would give Xcel Energy permission to develop and present a plan to the Commission at a later date.
“Move quickly and approve”
Adams County Economic Development, Northern Colorado Economic Development, Economic Development Council of Colorado, Aurora Chamber of Commerce, Pueblo Community College, and Aurora Economic Development Council all have the same sense of urgency:
urge[s] the Commission to move quickly and approve the Colorado Energy Plan proposal, which will deliver significant economic development benefits and long-term value by taking advantage of the clean energy resources…
However, the San Luis Valley Development Resources Group only urges the commission “to approve” as opposed to “to move quickly and approve…”
Wondering if your favorite city council, local chamber of commerce, or corporation supports raising your electric rates? Check out the list below to see who and what supports Xcel’s plan to increase the monopoly utility’s asset base (on which it profits handsomely) and kill jobs in the coal industry:
City of Alamosa
City of Arvada
City of Aurora
City of Fort Collins
City of Lafayette
City of Lakewood
City of Lone Tree
City of Northglenn
City of Thornton
Town of Dillon
Town of Breckenridge
Town of Frisco
Town of Erie
Pitkin County Board of Commissioners
Summit County Board of Commissioners
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Commissioner Casey Tighe, Chair, Pro-Tem Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners
State Senator Kevin Priola
State Senator Larry Crowder
State Representative Clarice Navarro (recently resigned to serve in the Trump Admininistration)
Denver Public Schools
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Pueblo Community College
Jeffco Public Schools
Clear Creek County
Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners (not fully endorsed)
Economic Development Groups
Highlands Ranch Community Association
Evans Area Chamber of Commerce
Superior Chamber of Commerce
Adams County Economic Development
Northern Colorado Economic Development
Economic Development Council of Colorado
Aurora Chamber of Commerce
San Luis Valley Development Resources Group
Aurora Economic Development Council
I reached out to a few of the grass top entities listed above. They had the same story. Xcel came to them asking for support. They didn’t bother to look at the other side, little, if any, performed any due diligence regarding the information Xcel provided. That’s not unusual. We’ve seen Xcel wage PR campaigns . It’s not pretty. The monopoly utility has been criticized before for misleading the public and the PUC.
These appear to be personal emails, exactly the same, many using the same email service KnowWho. Nearly 40 come from the Pueblo area, where the two units scheduled for early retirement are located. There 39 more exactly like the one below:
And 11 just like this:
If you hear somewhere that everyone supports Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan, now you know the rest of the story…
Tyson Thornburg is an energy and environmental policy researcher in the Future Leaders program at the Independence Institute, and a graduate student at the University of Denver studying Public Policy.