Green Cam Gordon Criticizes Xcel Energy for Bullying on Bad Bill

From Green Councilmember Cam Gordon

"I'm very disturbed by the news that Xcel Energy has used its economic power to muzzle fair, if pointed, criticism of it's terrible 'Becker bill'

You can read more of what I've written about the Becker bill - which the City opposed, along with environmental activists, consumers and consumer advocates - here:

The short version: Xcel did a run around the Public Utilities Commission to avoid having to explore renewables and prove the true cost-effectiveness of this plant. 

It's bad for the environment and bad for consumers. (And no, Xcel, natural gas is not a "more renewable form of energy" than coal, so get your spokesperson to stop saying it is.)

But when the small advocacy nonprofit the Institute for Local Self-Reliance put forth a clever, satiric "ad" to highlight Xcel's anti-environmental and anti-consumer behavior, Xcel did something worse. 

Rather than debating the issue openly and fairly, they got a law firm that specializes in intellectual property to send ILSR a cease-and-desist letter. Xcel's spokesperson referred to the satire as “misuse of our intellectual property.”

Well, I disagree. 

It seems to be that it is clearly what's known as Fair Use. Just like a political cartoonist isn't "misusing intellectual property" of McDonald's when she draws a cartoon featuring the golden arches to poke fun at McDonald's, ILSR was clearly not "misusing intellectual property" of Xcel. 

They aren't setting up another monopoly electricity utility in Minnesota, they're critiquing (accurately, in my view) the behavior of the corporation.

As far as I know, people get to do that because it is protected first amendment speech. Courts have repeatedly ruled that way. Xcel and their lawyers know that, I suspect. 

But they also know that a small nonprofit like ILSR can't afford to defend this in court, even if they win. And they were right, and the satirical video was taken down.

That's not justice, it's injustice. It's using the legal process as a cudgel to beat your opponents just because they're smaller than you. City Pages is right to call it bullying.

And it's worse even than that. 

Because Xcel has said it wants to be a good partner with the City of Minneapolis, as part of the Clean Energy Partnership. One of ILSR's staff is on the Partnership's Energy Vision Advisory Committee, volunteering his time to make sure that the Partnership is a success. 

None of that prevented them from engaging in this bullying behavior.

So, to recap: Xcel, without talking to and over the strong opposition of the City of Minneapolis, went to the legislature to get around the PUC in order to build a new fossil fuel plant rather than exploring renewables. 

And when an organization helping with the Clean Energy Partnership engaged in some entirely fair - and Fair Use - satire over these bad actions, Xcel bullied them into silence, using its size and capacity to hire expensive lawyers.

I find this disappointing."

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