DMEA Files Suit to Prevent Tri-State’s Attempt to Undermine Colorado Law

July 2, 2019

Montrose, CO July 2, 2019 — Today, Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) asked a state district court for a temporary restraining order against Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. The request, filed in Adams County District Court, would prevent Tri-State from taking any action in its efforts to strip the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of critical oversight by becoming subject to general Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulation.

Tri-State last month announced plans to add an unknown member-owner that is not a rural electric cooperative, claiming the new entity would put Tri-State under general FERC regulation and preempt Colorado PUC oversight. Tri-State indicated it could take this action as soon as its July 9-10, 2019 board meeting. 

In December 2018, DMEA filed a proceeding with the PUC asking it to determine a fair and equitable exit charge for DMEA to exit Tri-State. Tri-State claims that if it becomes a FERC jurisdictional public utility, it would require DMEA, after months of litigation and a final hearing scheduled next month, to “start over” before FERC in its efforts for a fair exit charge.

DMEA’s suit seeks to prevent Tri-State from adding the new member-owner. Commenting on DMEA’s filing, DMEA’s CEO, Jasen Bronec, stated: “Tri-State’s sudden announcement only weeks ago that it would pursue broad FERC oversight is a last-minute effort to undermine the Colorado PUC and prevent it from deciding a fair and reasonable exit charge for DMEA. No one knows who the new member-owner will be or what business purpose it would serve within Tri-State. The sole purpose appears to be an attempt to evade Colorado law by forum shopping.”

This is not the first time Tri-State has resisted Colorado PUC oversight of its exit charge. Earlier this year Tri-State filed a motion to dismiss DMEA’s complaint before the PUC. That motion was denied. Tri-State also sued in state court, but a judge dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the PUC has proper jurisdiction. “Now, faced with an upcoming PUC hearing, Tri-State says it’s going to ‘preempt’ Colorado law and the PUC by going to FERC,” said Bronec. “Tri-State’s third attempt to sidestep Colorado law—a rushed, unvetted, and secretive proposal to add a new member—lacks merit, and reflects its troubling approach to governance within the cooperative model.”

If granted, the temporary restraining order would postpone the board vote until the court can decide whether to delay it until after the PUC makes a final decision about a fair and equitable exit charge.