Xcel To Warn Investors About Global Warming, More Companies May Follow

09/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Dave Burdick New York Times, Wall Street Journal

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has been busy lately trying to keep investment banks in line. That's no small task, but if the inertia of Wall Street wasn't tough enough, he's also taking on global warming and its effects (on shareholders).

He sued Xcel, one of the country's largest providers of energy, and reached a settlement asking the company to start informing investors of the risks associated with operating coal-fueled power plants:

Mr. Cuomo subpoenaed Xcel and four other companies last September, seeking to determine whether their efforts to build new coal-fired power plants posed risks not disclosed to investors, like future lawsuits or higher costs to comply with possible regulations restricting carbon emissions.

The attorney general's office is still negotiating with the four other companies -- the AES Corporation, Dominion, Dynegy and Peabody Energy. But Mr. Cuomo hopes that the agreement will help persuade other companies to follow in the footsteps of Xcel, which supplies natural gas and electricity to customers in eight states. Among utilities, Xcel is one of the nation's largest producers of greenhouse gases and a major provider of wind energy.

Cuomo was able to go after Xcel and other energy companies despite the fact that they're not based in New York:

Xcel, a Minneapolis-based energy company, doesn't own any generating plants in New York but it is a major owner of coal-fired plants in other states and is building an additional plant in Colorado, its first such plant in almost three decades.

New York's attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, last year issued subpoenas to Xcel and four other energy companies -- AES Corp., Dominion Resources Inc., Dynegy Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp. -- citing the 1921 Martin Act that gives his office broad powers to access internal documents of firms doing business in New York, even if the primary relationship is a listing on the New York Stock Exchange.