by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- Flying in the face of recommendations by an Administrative Law Judge, a legal advisor and an engineering advisor, the Public Utilities Commission granted Xcel Energy and Tri-State a go ahead without conditions to move forward on the San Luis Valley-Calumet-Comanche Transmission Project.
Before the project can begin, Xcel Energy and Tri-State still face a federal and local review process. And a spokesperson for Trinchera Ranch indicated that the decision by the PUC to throw out a recommended rate payer protection condition would be challenged
Administrative Law Judge Mana Jennings-Fader, in a recommended decision to the PUC last November, required that the utilities put 700MW of solar generated energy from the San Luis Valley into the new line within ten years of operation. If Xcel didn’t meet that condition, it would have to refund rate payers half the cost of the line.
However Xcel argued that only the commission can approve the acquisition of resources and only after Xcel submits its needs, assumptions, bid criteria and other information required by the commission.
Xcel also voiced a concern in the December filing that the sitting Public Utilities Commission cannot bind future commissions. Stating in the filing that, “No corporate entity could construct a transmission project under this 700MW condition without regulatory assurances that the utility will be permitted to target generation that interconnects with this transmission facility.” The filing went on to say that, “…Public Service (Xcel Energy) cannot subject its shareholders to a risk of a $75 million forfeiture.”
Later this year the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be released with the final EIS being released either late this year or early 2012. The EIS will determine if the transmission line project will be approved by the Rural Utilities Service.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward