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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 5 May 2019  

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  MVEA lawsuit against county
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On March 18, Mountain View Electric Association filed a lawsuit against the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners and the Planning and Community Development Department for encroaching on private property rights based on an interpretation of the county’s Land Development Code.
   Dave Waldner, engineering manager for MVEA, said the county has inaccurately categorized the utility lines located within the MVEA-owned right-of-way, along arterial roads in the county, as “minor transmission lines.” Those lines are owned by MVEA and do not meet the industry standard criteria for transmission lines, he said.
   “Distribution lines directly link to buildings and houses,” Waldner said. “Transmission lines go directly from one substation to another. The county can only regulate transmission lines so they re-categorized our distribution lines as ‘minor’ transmission lines.”
   Jim Herron, chief executive officer for MVEA, said the motivation for the re-categorization is because the county eventually wants to widen arterial roads throughout the county like Meridian Road, Stapleton Road and Hodgen Road, but the county does not want to have to pay to move the existing distribution lines.
   If the lines are categorized as distribution lines, the county cannot regulate what happens with them and would have to pay MVEA to have the lines moved, he said. However, EPC created the “minor” transmission line category so they had regulatory power over the lines; thus, the county could require MVEA to pay to move the lines, Herron said.
   “The creative manipulation of the language that says, ‘We are going to regulate minor transmission lines,’ is laughable throughout the industry,” Herron said. “No one in the industry would come close to calling these distribution lines transmission lines, even minor ones at that.”
   Herron said transmission lines, per industry standards, carry at least 69,000 volts, while the MVEA distribution lines carry 12,000 volts. According to the Public Utility Commission’s definition, a transmission line carries a minimum of 115,000 volts, he said.
   Sarah Schaefer, communications supervisor and public information officer for MVEA, said the goal of the lawsuit is to get a judgment of whether EPC can regulate those existing lines by calling them “minor” transmission lines. If the courts agree with EPC’s definition, the county could require MVEA to pay to have the lines moved, which would ultimately affect the pocketbooks of MVEA customers in Arapahoe, Crowley, Douglas, Elbert, El Paso, Lincoln, Pueblo and Washington counties, since the company is a member-owned electric cooperative, she said.
   The cost to MVEA is not the only concern. Herron said, in some cases, the distribution lines would need to be moved through existing buildings, which is not practical and unnecessarily burdensome. That is encroachment on private property rights, he said.
   The lawsuit is still in the hands of the courts and a decision likely will not be made until late summer, Herron said.
   Amy Folsum from El Paso County did not return multiple phone calls.
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