Xcel working to end Fraser Valley moratorium this year
Colorado PUC declines to investigate utility thanks to faster timeline
Xcel Energy is hoping a new plan for a gas reinforcement pipeline speeds up the ending of a moratorium for new customers in the Fraser Valley that was enacted earlier this summer.
Through partnerships with private property owners and the town of Winter Park, Xcel hopes to relocate a six inch gas reinforcement pipeline that had originally been planned to route through US Forest Service land. If Xcel can avoid putting the pipeline on USFS land, it speeds up the construction process significantly, mountain area community relations manager Iffie Jennings explained.
“We have agreements with our development partners and we’re waiting on final signatures,” Jennings told the Winter Park Town Council. “Right now, best case scenario is we’re hoping to tie in place in early November, so if all goes to plan, that’s when we’re looking to end (the moratorium).”
Winter Park’s town council approved an easement for Xcel to route part of the pipeline through town owned land near the Roam neighborhood on Aug. 3, as well as an easement for a two inch reinforcement pipeline to go in on Ski Idlewild Road. Xcel continues to negotiate with private landowners to secure connections for the six inch pipeline.
Jennings said once Xcel finalized agreements with their partners, they hoped to begin construction in late August with completion in November. This would significantly shorten the moratorium, which was originally planned through the end of 2022 or into 2023, depending on the length of the USFS permitting process.
“We’re hoping this solution will be in place for the next 10 or 15 years,” Jennings said. “We will be working very closely with the town to understand development in the area, as well as with our capacity engineer group.”
The faster solution underway also pushed the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday to decide against investigating Xcel for its poor planning. However, the commission was concerned about communication from Xcel since the PUC was notified of the moratorium from an informal customer complaint on June 14.
Xcel internally paused applications on May 10, but didn’t notify the towns of the moratorium until June 7.
“I think it identifies the need for planning before the commission, so that the commission is aware of the issues well in advance of a notice going out to a local community that they have no more gas to serve the next customer,” said Eugene Camp, an engineer with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, which includes the PUC.
Additionally, public utilities commissioners disagreed with previous statements made by Xcel representatives that proactive capital improvements were restricted by PUC regulations. Camp was clear that no regulations prevented Xcel from addressing capacity issues when they were first noted in 2015.
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Winter Park has started processing property owners’ applications for the new Short Term Fix program with the hope of moving employees into housing as quickly as possible.