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Published November 26, 2009, 08:43 AM

Xcel ND ratepayers help foot bill for private jets

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Xcel Energy says its North Dakota customers help pay for the company's two leased private jets, even though they're rarely used to fly utility employees to the state.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Xcel Energy says its North Dakota customers help pay for the company's two leased private jets, even though they're rarely used to fly utility employees to the state.

North Dakota's Public Service Commission recently asked Xcel Energy about its use of corporate planes, in response to reports that the eight-passenger Learjets get frequent use shuttling employees between Minneapolis and Denver.

This year, Xcel says North Dakota electric and gas customers have paid $123,541 of the company's $5.22 million aviation budget — or about 2.4 percent. But the utility says it hasn't used the planes to fly anyone to North Dakota this year.

Last year, Xcel's corporate jets flew six trips in and out of North Dakota. In the seven other states it serves, the jets recorded almost 4,200 travel legs.

Public Service Commission Chairman Kevin Cramer says the flights have a minimal effect on utility bills, but he says they send a poor message about how careful the company is with ratepayers' money.

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