GarCo commission to weigh in on power surge case

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Nearly two years after an incident involving an energy contractor delivered a high-voltage jolt into a Silt-area home, Garfield County commissioners plan to apply some political heat in hopes of obtaining compensation for the homeowners.

Commissioners on Monday decided to request that entities involved in the incident appear before them May 4.

“We can put them in the hot seat,” said Commissioner Tresi Houpt.

Paul and Nanci Limbach have incurred at least $100,000 in nonreimbursed expenses from the May 18, 2007, incident. A loader being hauled by an I E Miller Services truck, which was doing work for EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), snapped a Holy Cross Energy power line by the Limbachs’ home on County Road 346.

The line fell onto a 69,000-volt Xcel Energy transmission line, causing a power surge that damaged the home’s wiring, appliances and other electronic devices. It also burned holes in walls and knocked fence and telephone poles from the ground.

Limbach runs the nonprofit Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation on the property, and its operations were disrupted by the incident. The couple also had to move from the home while repairs were being made.

“It’s just hard having to spend a hundred thousand dollars that you don’t have on something you didn’t cause,” Nanci Limbach said in an interview Monday.

The Limbachs have sued I E Miller, the truck’s driver and Holy Cross. The utility and I E Miller disagree on whether the line was below the 16-foot minimum height.

Nanci Limbach said the trial is scheduled for November.

Meanwhile, the county’s Energy Advisory Board has sought unsuccessfully to resolve the matter. The board consists of energy company, municipal, citizen and other representatives, and seeks to address disputes over energy development impacts. Board member Leslie Robinson said Monday the truck driver wasn’t ticketed in the case, so everyone is blaming someone else for the incident.

A few weeks after the incident, a Colorado State Patrol official said it was possible the line had been sagging or the driver had a permit to drive an overheight vehicle.

County Commissioner Mike Samson expressed frustration over the Limbachs’ plight.

“That makes me upset — makes me upset as an elected official,” he said.

County attorney Don DeFord said the county has no legal standing in the matter, but can exert political pressure over the parties involved because they all have to deal with county government.


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