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Thursday, October 17,2013

Election Guide 2013: No on Lafayette Ballot Question 2A

By Boulder Weekly Staff

City of Lafayette Ballot Question No. 2A
Xcel Franchise Renewal

Vote No

Lafayette’s Question 2A is all about envisioning the future. Xcel Energy, through its ownership of Public Service Company of Colorado, supplies Lafayette residents with gas and electricity by way of a non-exclusive franchise agreement.

Xcel, like any business, likes to create long-term stability for itself, and one way of doing so is to offer incentives to cities in exchange for their committing to very long-term franchise agreements.

In Lafayette, Xcel wants voters to grant the company another 20-year fran chise agreement. In exchange, the company will add approximately $720,000 a year into the city’s general fund from its franchise fee. Xcel also will give the city about $180,000 a year for the purpose of undergrounding its power lines and other utility infrastructure. In other words, Xcel’s vision of the future is two more decades exactly like the last two decades. Such a view makes perfect sense to protect future profit for a utility monopoly with a guaranteed margin of profit on everything it does.

Those who oppose the granting of a new 20-year franchise agreement to Xcel have a different view of the future. They believe that technology is rapidly changing the world we live in. They believe that no one, not them nor Xcel, can say with any certainty what amazing advancements on the energy front may come down over the next two decades.

Those who oppose signing a new 20-year franchise agreement fear that Lafayette residents, because of having committed to a new agreement with Xcel, may find themselves using electricity generated by dirty coal or methane-leaking natural gas long after better, cleaner, more sustainable fuels have become available simply because Xcel may see those dirty fuels as the most profitable choice for the company. BW believes that this is a valid fear.

So what happens if Lafayette voters say no to 2A?

First of all, Xcel will still be required to provide the city with gas and electricity, so there will not be any disruption of service.

Second, Xcel will no longer be putting $720,000 into the general fund. That’s why those opposed to the franchise are also encouraging voters to vote yes on Lafayette Issue No. 301, which would create a Utility Occupation Tax (UOT) that would still be part of area utility bills and would replace the $720,000 franchise fee.

In other words, Lafayette residents would be paying exactly the same for their electricity and gas and still generating $720,000. Here’s the point of decision.

Whereas the franchise agreement would put $720K into the general fund, the UOT that would be created by the passage of Issue No. 301 would put $720K into a fund earmarked for investing in renewable energies, energy efficiencies and other sustainable energy practices.

Those who want to sign the 20-yearlong Xcel franchise agreement claim that losing $720K from the general budget will somehow cripple the city, causing cuts to services such as police, fire, ambulance and the library.

BW believes that this is largely a scare tactic. The city of Lafayette is actually doing quite well. As a matter of comparison, Lafayette currently spends $5.3 million a year on golf course expenditures. That’s more than three times the amount being shifted into sustainable energy, assuming that the franchise agreement does not pass and Issue No. 301 does. While $720K is hardly chickenfeed, it is only just more than 1 percent of Lafayette’s overall budget. So putting that money towards a sustainable energy future will hardly cause the draconian cuts being threatened by city officials.

In fact, modern economic research indicates that when a city demonstrates that it is thinking of the future in a sustainable, environmentally responsible way, it has a better chance of luring high-paying jobs and green businesses into its tax base. Just one successful business of good size relocating to, or starting up in, Lafayette would pay back the $720K investment in a sustainable future many times over.

The last issue being touted by those who support a yes vote on the Xcel franchise renewal is that Lafayette would lose the $180K per year undergrounding revenue currently being paid by Xcel to the city. This is true. That revenue would go away if the franchise fee is not approved, but the city would still have a full year to use up the $1.2 million it has already accrued towards undergrounding efforts. That money should not be lost, as some critics now claim.

Like we said at the beginning, it’s all in the way you view the future. So with that said, BW optimistically endorses the view of those citizens opposed to Question 2A. It’s time to move into the current century and away from coal and the dirty extraction processes of natural gas. Vote no on 2A and allow Lafayette’s energy future to be determined by advances in green energy technology, not by an incredibly long-term franchise agreement binding citizens to an old-school utility monopoly for decades to come.

View all of Boulder Weekly's endorsements here.

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