Major Legal Victory for DMEA and for Rural Coloradans
MONTROSE, Colo. — April 19, 2019 — A state district court has thrown out a lawsuit filed by Tri-State against Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) in Adams County. Tri-State, which is headquartered in Adams County, sued DMEA earlier in the year and challenged the Colorado Public Utilities Commission’s ability to decide a reasonable exit charge for DMEA’s withdrawal from Tri-State. The PUC—represented by the Colorado Attorney General—and DMEA both filed motions to dismiss, arguing that Tri-State’s lawsuit was an improper attack on Commission jurisdiction.
By granting the motions to dismiss, the state district court set aside Tri-State’s entire lawsuit. In doing so the court flatly rejected Tri-State’s argument that the PUC cannot decide a reasonable DMEA withdrawal charge. “The issue of whether Tri-State’s application of its bylaws to the ‘exit charge’ or ‘contract buyout’ is ‘unjust, unreasonable, discriminatory, or preferential,’ . . . is within the jurisdiction of the PUC,” the court determined.
“We applaud the court’s ruling,” said DMEA’s Chief Executive Officer, Jasen Bronec. “Tri-State made it clear in its lawsuit against us that it wanted to prevent DMEA from arguing its case before the PUC, which is charged with protecting the public interest. We disagreed with Tri-State's position that the PUC is powerless to prevent Tri-State from holding rural Coloradans captive by setting whatever exit charge it wants,” he said. “Tri-State’s loss is not just a victory for DMEA, but a victory for rural Colorado.”
Tri-State filed its lawsuit in response to DMEA’s complaint to the PUC aimed at protecting its members from Tri-State’s abusive and discriminatory exit charge. Colorado law directs the PUC to make sure electricity consumers—including rural Coloradans like DMEA’s members—aren’t forced by public utilities like Tri-State to pay unjust, unreasonable, and discriminatory charges.
Delta-Montrose Electric Association is a member-owned and locally controlled rural electric cooperative, incorporated in 1938. Located in Southwest Colorado, DMEA energizes and serves 28,000 members in Montrose, Delta and Gunnison counties. DMEA is a progressive and forward-thinking electrical distribution cooperative.