By Denver Business Journal

A contentious proposal for a 150-mile, $180 million power line to move electricity out of the San Luis Valley to Coloradoâ¿¿s Front Range â¿¿ opposed by Louis Bacon, the owner of two ranches that lie along the lineâ¿¿s route â¿¿ has landed in court.

A suit was filed Wednesday in Costilla County Court by Trinchera Ranch Holdings LLC and Blanca Ranch Holdings LLC, both owned by Bacon, a hedge fund manager, said Matthew Douglas, an attorney with Denverâ¿¿s Arnold & Porter LLP, which is representing the ranches in the suit.

The suit was filed against the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and the two commissioners who gave final approval to the power line, PUC Chairman Joshua Epel and Commissioner Matt Baker. The third commissioner, Jim Tarpey, recused himself from the case in February 2010.

The power line is backed by Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc. (NYSE: XEL), Coloradoâ¿¿s largest utility, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association of Westminster, the stateâ¿¿s second-largest power generator. The two utilities say the new power line is needed to move solar power supplies from the sunny southern valley to the more populous Front Range.

The suit asks the court to reverse the PUCâ¿¿s ruling that the power line should be built for several reasons, including that Xcel has delayed plans to build solar power farms in the valley, and that neither Xcel nor Tri-State has adequately studied alternative routes.

In early September, the PUC reaffirmed an earlier decision to approve the power line. A written order was issued on Sept. 13, kicking off a 30-day clock for parties in the controversy to challenge the PUCâ¿¿s decision in the courts.

In response to the suit, Xcel issued a statement calling the action "disappointing, but not unexpected. The commission approved our project based on the need to improve reliability and to develop renewable resources in southern Colorado."

And Tri-State said that its "need for this project has not changed. Reliable electricity is critical to the welfare of the citizens of southern Colorado. The Colorado PUC approved our project based on its merits. Bacon's unnecessary lawsuit threatens to delay needed investments that support reliable electric service for southern Colorado.⿝

Copyright 2011 American City Business Journals

Copyright 2010