Documents Reveal Xcel Lobbying Tactics In Denver

Building taller transmission towers is serious business for Xcel Energy and the company’s lobbyists.

Since May, Xcel has been trying to surpass a Denver view plane ordinance in an effort to update transmission towers that the business says are crucial to the function of energy throughout the city. The Denver City Council is expected to vote on the issue Sept. 10, amid opposition from neighborhood leaders worried about the effects.

E-mail messages obtained by Colorado Confidential reveal that Xcel lobbyists were not only monitoring blogs for oppositional research in their push to start updating the towers, but they were also providing public officials with oodles of information–partly with the help of e-mails obtained from the opposition .CRL Associates, a lobbying firm representing Xcel Energy and its subsidiary Public Service Company of Colorado, took part in presenting a 40 page report to members of the Denver Planning Board, where the company first went to request variance from the view plane limitation in May. The board denied Xcel’s request, and the company then moved to change the view plane ordinance through the council.

CRL also provided council member Charlie Brown (Dist 6), the sponsor of the proposal to change the view plane, with photos, public meeting minutes, notes on company strategy, and in one instance, what appears to be an e-mail sent from another council member in opposition to the proposal.

In an e-mail dated Jun. 6, CRL vice president Brittany Morris is shown to have forwarded Brown an oppositional message obtained by Xcel and written by former councilwoman Kathleen MacKenzie.

In the message, MacKenzie warned the city planning board that “the Mayor’s office is working to circumvent your decision on the Ruby Hill view plane with respect to Xcel’s massive transmission towers.”

The e-mail was shown to have been given to to Xcel by Jeffrey Walker, an agent with the company and a member of the planning board. 

Other documents reveal that Brown was given photographs of the proposed transmission tower upgrade, along with e-mails about company plans.

In one mailing dated Jun 27, when Brown is shown to have forwarded an lengthy opposition e-mail written by a member of the West Washington Park Neighborhood Association to Morris, she replies: “Thanks. This document will help us draft the myth vs. fact doc tomorrow.”

A literal myth vs. fact document totaling 6 pages was given to city council members in on Jul. 2.

Blog watching? Pages of reports? E-mail scavenging? Whether or not Xcel will get its wish come September remains to be seen, but the company’s lobbying tactics portray a seriousness that might not seem worthy of a few transmission towers.

Click here to see CRL/Xcel opposition e-mail sent to Brown.

Click here to see CRL/Xcel tower image e-mail.

Click here to see CRL/Xcel public meeting minutes e-mail.

Click here to see  opposition e-mail sent to CRL/Xcel.

E-mails have been edited to protect the privacy of individuals who are not public figures.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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