Jul 12, 2023 - Business

Xcel Energy is facing financial fire in Colorado

A home burns in the Marshall Fire on Dec. 30, 2021. Photo: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Xcel Energy is facing a barrage of attacks that puts the company's future in question.

Driving the news: The potential role of the utility's powerline in sparking the devastating and deadly Marshall Fire in 2021 is leading to numerous lawsuits for negligence and damages that carry massive financial liability.

  • Hundreds of businesses, individuals and insurance companies filed a lawsuit this week seeking unspecified compensation and blaming the company's negligence in maintaining its equipment
  • A law firm specializing in large payouts related to wildfires also filed a legal complaint on behalf of a Boulder couple — first of hundreds more expected in coming months.
  • A class action lawsuit filed months ago by a Superior couple also is pending.

The intrigue: The mounting pressures on the Minnesota-based utility appear to parallel what happened to Pacific Gas & Electric in California after destructive wildfires in 2019.

  • The company was forced to declare bankruptcy and set aside billions in assets to cover its liability for poorly maintained equipment.

By the numbers: The wind-fueled Marshall Fire is the most destructive in state history, destroying more than 1,000 homes in Boulder County and tallying $2 billion in damages.

What they're saying: "This is an investor-owned utility that, we contend, failed to live up to its obligation to protect the community from fires started by its power lines," attorney Nicholas Rosinia, who filed the lawsuit against Xcel for the Boulder couple, said in a statement to the Denver Business Journal.

Between the lines: Xcel Energy also is facing criticism from the governor's office and advocacy groups for repeated requests to increase electricity and natural gas rates jeopardizing millions in potential revenue.

The other side: In a statement to Axios Denver, spokesperson Tyler Bryant said the company disputed its role in causing the Marshall Fire, pointing to the other stated ignition point at the Twelve Tribes property and additional questions raised in the investigation from the Boulder County sheriff. The company declined to answer other questions.

  • "We have reviewed our maintenance records and believe the system was properly maintained," Bryant wrote.

Of note: Xcel Energy acknowledged the risk of electrical lines in regard to wildfires in a filing with the Colorado Public Utilities commission, the Colorado Sun reports. It is currently surveying 1,500 miles of power lines in Colorado using high resolution cameras and laser radar.

  • The project began in 2020 and will cost ratepayers $148 million.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more