Op-ed: Colorado powerline bill would weaken local control

Coming soon to a landscape near you?

Proposed measure could weaken counties’ 1041 review powers in Colorado

By Ceal Smith

Colorado counties could be stripped of their power to decide about siting transmission lines if the utilities have their way in the Colorado Senate this week.

Senate Bill 11-045, “concerning a streamlined process for securing governmental approval for the siting of electric transmission facilities“, pretty much says it all.

Initially, the bill established a Transmission Siting Commission in place of the “1041” land use permitting process adopted by many counties in Colorado.  When Colorado Counties, Inc. balked, backers of the bill (with oversight from Xcel and TriState) quickly amended it to create a task force to “study” the idea.

The 16-member Task Force would be funded by and comprised mostly of industry and municipal interests and political appointees.  It’s task is to “take testimony” through a series of at least 4 public meetings on the “siting of electric transmission facilities”, and report back to the Governor by the end of the year.

Only two of the sixteen member task force would represent all of Colorado’s 64 Counties. That would likely leave out rural Colorado, local environmental interests and ratepayers, who would foot the bill for transmission decisions the Commission could make, should it be approved.

Simply put; this bill seeks to disenfranchise people and local communities in Colorado from having a say in siting new transmission.

The bill was approved by a 7 to 1 vote in the Senate Agricultural Committee last week, including a thumbs up from Committee Chair, Gail Schwartz who represents the San Luis Valley.  The Valley is at the epicenter of Xcel and TriState’s hotly contested SoCo transmission line, recently approved by the Public Utilities Commission.

If appointed, a Transmission Siting Commission could effectively push aside rising opposition to the transmission line and large-scale industrial solar development that proponents say can’t move forward without a new high voltage transmission line into the San Luis Valley.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Friday.  If passed, it will go to the House Agricultural, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee next week.

Ceal Smith is the chair of the board of directors of the San Luis Valley Renewable Communities Alliance.


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