Boulderites launch 2B campaign to replace city revenue, explore clean energy options

Citizens for Boulder’s Clean Energy Future launched the YES on 2B Campaign over the weekend with a party at the Ribhouse in Boulder, where attendees learned about a complicated ballot measure facing voters in November.

After following a recommendation from staff, the Boulder City Council in August voted to allow afranchise agreement with Xcel Energy to lapse while the city explores options for increasing the amount of renewable energy used for the city’s electrical supply.

However, under the current franchise agreement, the city collects a $4 million in revenue from a franchise fee that appears on Boulder residents’ energy bill. Xcel is no longer legally obligated to collect the fee and will no longer do so after the deal expires at the end of this year.

In order to replace the $4 million in revenue, 2B would replace the fee with an occupation tax.

“We’re not giving ourselves any extra fund, but we are keeping our city services and general funds intact, which are important for city functions such as our police, fire departments, and our libraries,” 2B campaign volunteer Micah Parkin said Friday.

The aim of the 2B campaign is to connect the proposed occupation tax with increased renewable energy for Boulder and at the same time inform voters that they will not be adding on a new tax but rather changing the name of a fee that they already pay.

“This a funny situation. This is not the biggest amendment or change going on. It’s like a key that opens a clean energy door for us,” said clean energy consultant Ken Regelson. “The key is 2B.”

All members of the Boulder City Council and Boulder County Commissioner Will Toor have endorsed 2B.

As of yet, the campaign has no formal opposition.

If 2B passes, the city – committed to reaching carbon reduction goals set in the 2006 Climate Action Plan – has two paths forwards. The city could continue working with Xcel and possibly enter into a more amicable franchise agreement later after greater clean energy assurances are made by the company, or the city could try to move forward alone and “municipalize” the city’s electricity supply.

With the continued lack of action at the federal level on climate change, Boulder is joining other communities across the nation — such as Marin County in California – that have been developing local policies to move toward an increased reliance on renewables and less dependence on coal.

“In the halls of Congress right now, the word climate change is barely being uttered,” said 2B volunteer Allison Burchell. “Maybe the action begins with communities that want to initiate these pilot programs. Maybe we can figure this out at this scale.”

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