Colorado Bulk Transmission Land Use Planning(1-CO)
Land use planning in Colorado is primarily delegated to local governments pursuant to CRS 29-20-101. Planning jurisdictions include 64 counties and 271 incorporated municipalities. Under 29-20-105 planning commissions adopt land use plans called “master” or “comprehensive” plans.
Colorado does not have a state-administered siting act for high-voltage transmission lines. The role of the state in permitting high-voltage transmission lines is limited to 1) issuing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), typically prior to the siting and permitting processes, and 2) reviewing and resolving siting cases if a utility appeals local government decisions. A CPCN is a written application that is submitted to the CPUC, that provides details about the proposed project includes background information, purpose and need statement, system planning information, and possible impacts from the proposed project. The contents of the CUP are described in more detail below.
Colorado laws and CPUC rules require that an electric utility seeking to construct and operate a transmission line must first obtain a CPCN, unless the PUC determines that construction of the transmission line is in the ordinary course of business in which case the CPCN would not be required. The ordinary course of business means the usual transactions, customs and practices of a certain business and of a certain firm. The local government-administered siting process begins after a CPCN is issued.
Utilities may appeal any decision made by a local government authority that has the effect or result of denying a permit or application for a major electrical facility. This also includes decisions that imposes requirements or conditions upon such permit or application that will unreasonably impair the ability of the utility to provide safe, reliable, and economical service to the public.  To appeal a local government action, one of the following conditions must be met:
- The utility has applied for or has obtained a CPCN from the CPUC to construct the major electrical facility that is the subject of the local government action
- A CPCN is not required for the utility to construct the major electrical facility that is the subject of the local government action
- The PUC has previously entered an order that conflicts with the local government action.
CPUC Rule 3703 outlines specific information required in an appeal application to the PUC including:
- Background information.
- A statement of reasons the utility believes the local government action would unreasonably impair its ability to provide safe, reliable, and economical service to the public.
- The demonstrated need for the proposed project.
- The extent to which the proposed project is inconsistent with applicable local or regional land use ordinances, resolutions, or master or comprehensive plans.
- Systems planning and engineering information.
- The merit of any reasonably available and economically feasible alternatives proposed by the utility or the local government.
- The impact that the local government action would have on customers of the utility who reside within and without the boundaries of the jurisdiction of the local government.
- The basis for the local government action (including a copy of the action if available).
- The impact the proposed project would have on residents within the local government’s jurisdiction, including whether residents have already paid to place such facilities underground. If the residents have already paid to place the proposed facilities underground, the PUC will give strong consideration to that fact.
- Information about public safety.
- An attestation that the utility will send a copy of the application to the local government body that took the action and that is the subject of the appeal application at the same time the appeal application is filed.
The Commission will hold a pre-hearing conference within 15 days after the appeal application is complete. The pre-hearing conference must include the local government and PUC representatives.
The Commission will deny an appeal if the utility has failed to comply with the following notification and consultation requirements:
- A utility shall notify the affected local government of its plans to site a major electrical facility within its jurisdiction prior to submitting the preliminary or final permit application, but in no event later than filing a request for a CPCN, or the filing of any annual filing with the PUC that proposes or recognizes the need for a new major electrical facility or an extension of an existing facility. If the utility is not required to obtain a CPCN, or to file annually with the PUC of the proposed construction of major electrical facilities, the utility must notify any affected local government of its intention to site a new facility or expand an existing facility when such utility determines that it intends to proceed to permit and construct that facility.
- Following notification, the utility must consult with the local governments to identify potential sites or routes for the proposed facility and to attempt to resolve any land use issues. The utility must identify a preferred alternative within its permit application, and consider and present reasonable siting and design alternative to the local government or explain why no reasonable alternatives are available.
Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply
Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.