Sierra Pacific files suit over proposed substation
Appeal Staff Writer
Sierra Pacific Power Co. has filed a lawsuit against Storey County over the county’s rejection of a substation in the Mark Twain area.
The action was filed Wednesday in the first District Justice Court in Storey County and asks that the court review the county commission’s upholding of the Storey County Planning Commission’s recommendations to not grant the company a special use permit.
The utility seeks to build an Emma substation, a 345,000-volt line and two additional lines that would run from the Tracy Power Plant in northern Storey County to the substation.
Sierra Pacific spokesman Faye Anderson said the company was not seeking monetary damages; the filing was for a petition for judicial review.
“It is an appeal of their decision,” she said.
She said the company questions the legality of the commission’s decision based on insufficient evidence to deny the permit.
The petition calls the evidence presented by the company at the commission meeting “incontrovertible” that the substation would be in the best interest of the general public and not detrimental to surrounding property.
Sierra Pacific has also initiated eminent domain proceedings to force the sale of the land the substation would be built on. The land is owned by the Borda family.
Despite the action, Sierra Pacific is still working with Storey County officials to find an alternate location, Anderson said.
“It’s a parallel path and trying to find an alternative site and also pursuing our options in court,” she said.
In its action, Sierra Pacific claims that if the substation is not built in time to be put in service by summer 2008, the electric reliability of certain portions of the grid will be compromised, and the company’s ability to serve the power load in the area will be jeopardized.
The petition also said that in order to be completed by next year, construction would have to begin almost immediately.
Mark Twain resident Tom Zachry called the utility “arrogant” and said from the very first meeting company officials talked about lawsuits.
“It’s all about money,” he said. “It’s a private corporation that’s trying to make money by taking private property.”
He said courts shouldn’t overturn the decisions of county commissions.
“Why do we have a planning commission or a county commission?” he asked. “If the county does not have the authority to turn down an application that is unpopular, unsafe and uneconomical for the county, what’s going to keep everyone who comes along from filing a lawsuit and getting what they want?”
Storey County Manager Pat Whitten said Sierra Pacific’s action was not unexpected.
“We always knew it was an option,” he said. “But we are also told they are still sincere in their efforts to seek a new location (for the substation.)”
Whitten said the county will not back down, despite the court action.
“The county is still committed to fight this action and uphold the decisions of the planning commission and the county commissioners,” he said.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.