Power Co. Drops Plan To Build Line Through Bacon Ranch

Nov 8 2011 | 9:25am ET

Louis Bacon has lost every single round in his fight to keep a 140-mile power line off of his massive southern Colorado ranch, but he appears to have fought one opponent to exhaustion.

Xcel Energy announced this week that it was dropping out of the project. Xcel, which had previously said the new line was necessary to improve system reliability, has changed its mind, with spokesman Mark Stutz saying "there is not a great need for new generation, period, thus lessening our need to participate in the transmission line project.

"This year we saw lower electricity load forecasts, low natural gas prices, lack of federal carbon regulation, expiring tax credits, potential future litigation and a continued sluggish economy," Stutz added. "Our conclusion, in light of these factors and also to keep costs low for our customers, is to reconsider our participation in the Southern Colorado Transmission Improvements Project."

Cody Wertz, a spokesman for Bacon's Trinchera Ranch, called Xcel's decision "a significant development." But he remained cautious, noting that Trinchera would continue "fighting for a win-win solution for the people of the Valley that helps to improve energy reliability, bolsters renewable energy and conserves and protects this spectacular region of Colorado."

Wertz's caution is well-advised: Xcel's now-former partner on the project, the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, isn't giving up.

"The need for reliable electric service across the San Luis Valley, south central Colorado and northern New Mexico has not changed," Joel Bladlow, senior vice president of transmission, said. "Tri-State will examine all options to ensure reliable power for the region, and it is premature to eliminate any options without further investigation."

Bacon, the billionaire founder of Moore Capital Management, bought the 250-square-mile ranch for $175 million three years ago from the Forbes family.

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