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Xcel Energy Faces Trial Next Week Over Fire Deaths In 2007


DENVER — The state’s largest utility faces a criminal trial next week in Denver’s federal court on charges stemming from a fatal 2007 fire.

Xcel Energy is charged with five criminal counts, OSHA violations resulting in death, related to the fire that killed five workers at the Cabin Creek hydroelectric plant in Georgetown. The workers died while relining a penstock, or large water pipe, when a chemical they were using caught fire. They were trapped inside the penstock and died of asphyxiation.

Jury selection begins May 31, with opening statements expected June 1. The trial, slated to last three to four weeks, will be in the courtroom of Chief Judge Wiley Daniel. If Xcel is found guilty, the maximum penalty for the charges is $2.5 million in fines.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Pena is the lead prosecutor. Cliff Stricklin, a former federal prosecutor with Holme Roberts & Owen, is the lead defense attorney for Xcel Energy. He’s joined by HRO’s Michael Hofmann and Temkin Wielga & Hardt’s Nea Brown.

The case was severed from the original indictment, which included charges against the company for which the slain men worked, RPI Coating, and two of the company’s executives, Philippe Goutagny and James Thompson. No trial date has been set for those defendants. Larry Pozner of Reilly Pozner represents RPI and Goutagny, while David Kaplan of Haddon Morgan & Foreman represents Thompson.