Talk about a loaded question. This week, voters said “no” to the controversial Ballot Question 310 by a margin of nearly 70%. The ballot issue, backed heavily by Xcel Energy, was largely defeated while another ballot issue, that was clearly competing with Question 310 passed. You may see people celebrating the win, but what exactly was Question 310 and why are people so happy that it did not pass?
Here’s the legal jargon:
Shall Article XIII of the Charter of the City of Boulder be amended by the addition of a new section 188 “Limitations on Debt,” that provides (a) before the electric utility enterprise issues any debt, voters must approve the amount of the utility’s debt limit and the total cost of debt repayment that the utility will incur, both to be stated in dollars in any ballot question; and (b) the utility’s service area shall not extend to areas outside the city limits unless registered electors in those areas are permitted to vote in these debt limit and repayment cost elections; and (c) such elections shall be held on the dates of general municipal elections; and (d) any brokerage fees for managing any sale of bonds or other indebtedness shall be limited to one percent of proceeds?
Yeah, it’s heavy stuff, we know, but here are the basics:
Boulder County is try to establish its own municipal utility that would allow the county to pick and choose where they get their energy in order to ensure that they are getting it from predominantly sustainable sources.
If they were to establish their own utility company, Xcel Energy would no longer have the monopoly that it holds over energy utilities in the state, which, as you know, is bad for their business.
The question above basically makes it incredibly hard for any new, unestablished utility to start up because it would require voter approval for any debt incurred before starting the new company. Of course, since the elections are only held once a year, the approval of debt would be long and drawn out, making it nearly impossible for the separate municipal utility to get off the ground.
Question 310 was backed hard by Xcel Energy, with a good deal of its campaign money coming from the utilities giant. But all the money in the world couldn’t sway the voters, who caused the ballot measure to fail.
While there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done in order to have a separate utility, but this marks the defeat of a potential setback on the path.