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Tri-State: PUC has no say in contract dispute with DMEA

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Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has delivered a letter to the Colorado Legislature seeking lawmakers' engagement when considering matters important to electric cooperatives. The letter specifically addresses Delta Montrose Electric Association's filing with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

DMEA has asked for PUC's help in setting an exit charge from the Tri-State, its wholesale energy provider, that would allow it to purchase more renewable and locally-generated power at a lower cost, which in the long run would help stabilize rates.

Tri-State generates and transmits power to 43 co-op members in four western states. Under its contract, which expires in 2040, DMEA must purchase 95 percent of its power from Tri-State. DMEA's board believes the savings from purchasing power from other suppliers would cover the cost of buying out the years remaining on the contract.

"We continue to think the PUC has jurisdiction over this matter, and we look forward to obtaining a just, reasonable and nondiscriminatory exit charge through the commission process," said Jasen Bronec, DMEA CEO.

The letter to the legislators, signed by 26 members of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, disputes that opinion.

"As co-owners and members of Tri-State, this disagreement should be resolved by the Tri-State members themselves or in the court if necessary," the members wrote.

"With 43 diverse members, including 25 outside of Colorado, there will be disagreement, but history shows we can find acceptable solutions much more effectively than regulatory agencies or a legislative body," said Rick Gordon, a businessman and farmer from Simla, who chairs Tri-State's board and is a member of Mountain View Electric Cooperative, based in Limon.

"We notice that most cooperatives signing Tri-State's letter to the Colorado Legislature were not from Colorado. In fact, less than half of Colorado's cooperatives joined the Tri-State letter," Bronec said in response.

"Additionally, we find it interesting that Tri-State fails to mention that two other large Colorado cooperatives, La Plata Electric and United Power, have moved to intervene at the PUC in support of DMEA. Combined, DMEA, United, and LaPlata serve more than 150,000 Colorado homes and businesses; this represents significantly more Coloradans than are served by all eight of the Colorado cooperatives combined who signed Tri-State's letter to our legislators."

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