A citizens' group opposing Xcel's Pawnee - Daniels Park Transmission Line Project came across some interesting information a couple weeks ago.
The citizens uncovered a letter the Douglas County School Board sent to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that urged the CPUC to "approve the project." The letter prattles on about economic growth, increased electric use, and reliability, all things not within the expertise of the Douglas County School Board to determine.
The letter is signed by Board President Kevin Larsen, but none of the other school board members remembered approving it, or even discussing it.
Why would the School Board write this letter?
Maybe because Board Member Douglas Benevento, who is listed on the letter as Vice President of the school board, is also Vice President of Public Affairs for Xcel?
Imagine that! What a coincidence!
Channel 7 reports that Benevento has "recused himself" from any discussions of Xcel and that he will not be in attendance to face the music tonight when the citizens of Douglas County show up at the school board meeting to ask the following questions:
1) Why would the school district get involved at all?
2) Did the district check with its constituents in the affected areas before endorsing?
3) Was this a unanimous decision made by the board?
4) What analysis of the project did the board undertake to understand the need and impact of the project before endorsing?
5) What expertise did the board utilize to make this decision?
6) What meetings with Xcel and its representatives has the board (or school staff) held regarding Xcel's proposed plan, when were those meetings held and what was the substance of those meetings?
Opposition has evolved and the rules have changed. Forever.
UPDATE: Last night, the school board voted 4 to 2 to rescind the letter it had sent to the PUC. In its place, it will send a letter saying they don't want the power lines near schools. We believe this is a huge (and quick) victory!
Several Halt the Power Lines supporters were there and two spoke, including Colonel Curt Dale.
Board president (Kevin Larsen) reported that when he signed the letter in early May, he thought it related to a different matter and signed it without anyone else seeing it beforehand. He voted to let the letter stand as sent to the PUC. He said he likes and defended Xcel's proposal (as long as they keep the lines a safe distance from schools). We asked what about the kids in residential neighborhoods. Director Richardson, who was the second vote to let the letter stand as is, later said not having it close to schools (but close to residents) was a matter of density. I'm pretty sure, unbelievable as it is, that he actually used the word "density." Nettled, he also said he might personally send a letter to the PUC endorsing the project. (For what it's worth, he works for a gas pipe company that has many business dealings and business arrangements with Xcel.)
Voting to rescind the letter were directors Geddes, Reynolds, Robbins and Silverton. The four felt that the school board had no business in the matter, except ensuring the power lines weren't near schools. (Mr. Benevento was not at the meeting.)