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Consumer Coalition Lines Up Against Xcel Rate Request

Four state-wide Colorado consumer groups Wednesday announced they have formed a coalition to oppose a $210 million general rate increase request by Xcel Energy that the company maintains is essential for it to recover $1 billion it has invested in its electric system since 2002. Called the "Xcel Accountability Project," the coalition effort established a website (www.ExposeXcel.com), making an e-mail pitch for support before the state regulatory commission.

A utility spokesperson told local news media that the groups are misjudging fuel cost recovery rate increases with levels of profit for the company. Xcel has an allowed rate of return of 10.75%, but has earned only at the 8.5% level, the spokesperson said.

The coalition announced that Xcel reported a 25% increase in profits, what it called "huge profits coming at a time when customers have been reeling from skyrocketing bills all winter." Allegations are that winter bills in Colorado have risen from 25-40% in the state, according to the coalition, which is made up of ProgressNowAction.org, Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG), Colorado Progressive Coalition and Clean Energy Action.

Aimed at both gas and electric rates, the coalition also is criticizing Xcel for its severance payments to former executives and methods of financing construction of the utility's new coal-fired Comanche 3 generation plant in Pueblo. The coalition is billing its campaign "unprecedented," and it hopes will hold Xcel "accountable to Colorado consumers."

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will hold hearings later this year on the rate request and a decision is expected before the end of the year.

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