Xcel Settles Suit with Federal Regulators for $35K

Court documents state that Xcel denies liability and has agreed to settle "only to avoid the expense, burden, and time of litigation."

A months-long, contentious legal dispute between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, Inc., has been settled.

Court documents filed Thursday state that Xcel has agreed to pay $35,000, and the EPA will drop its lawsuit.

The EPA sued Xcel in June alleging that the utility had refused to provide the proper information regarding its Sherburne County plant in Becker and its Black Dog plant in Burnsville. Named as defendants in the complaint were Xcel and its subsidiary, Northern States Power Minnesota, which operates the two plants at the center of the litigation.

In a series of letters, federal regulators requested information pertaining to activity at Xcel's plants. Xcel responded that it had provided thousands of pages of documents to the EPA-but it believed that many of the EPA's requests were not within the agency's authority as a regulatory body.

In June, Xcel wrote in an e-mailed statement to Twin Cities Business that the dispute “does not involve any environmental claims. It is a dispute over the scope of the EPA's authority to seek information about potential future projects that may or may not be undertaken.”

Following Xcel's refusal to comply with the EPA's requests, the agency narrowed its request to only information regarding projects planned for the next two years, with periodic updates during the following three years.

In late September, U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson issued a judgment requiring Xcel to turn over additional documents outlining plans for its two plants. The judge at that time also denied a request by Xcel to dismiss the suit altogether.

The settlement agreement, which was filed Thursday, states that Xcel and the EPA “have conferred and are cooperating in good faith regarding the production of information and documents” as required by the September order, and “that process is ongoing.”

Court documents state, however, that Xcel denies liability and has agreed to settle “only to avoid the expense, burden, and time of litigation.”

Xcel is Minnesota's ninth-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $9.6 billion in 2009.