PRECorp squares off with City of Gillette over Cam-Plex power

By Sarah Pridgeon

Powder River Energy Corporation has filed a complaint with District Court, the latest development in a dispute that began in the early 1990s. The issue of who has the right to serve power to Cam-Plex, an 1100-acre events facility and RV park that sits on the city’s boundary, rests on whether the City of Gillette truly intends to annex the property.

Gillette city officials originally obtained special permission to provide electrical power to Cam-Plex in 1992, based on its intention to annex the facility into city limits. “The city is actually a co-funder of operations at the facility, so initially it made sense to the city for them to serve it,” explains Joe Lunne, Public Information Officer for the City of Gillette.

The location, however, is within PRECorp’s certified service territory and, thus far, Gillette has failed to complete annexation of Cam-Plex but continues to sell power to it.

In 2012, PRECorp attempted to resolve the matter by offering the city the opportunity to sell electricity to Cam-Plex and reimburse the energy company for the right to serve inside its certificated territory. An agreement was signed on January 7, 2013.

“PRECorp sought an interim agreement this year, to allow time to reach a long-term agreement with the city,” says Timothy Velder, PRECorp spokesman, adding that the agreement was not the first step taken to resolve the matter. “Discussions with the city regarding the service to the Cam-Plex have been ongoing for several months and go back several years.”

A little over a month later, the Gillette City Council voted to terminate the agreement, prior to its six-month expiration. In response, the PRECorp Board of Directors voted the next day, February 26, to revoke the city’s authority to serve Cam-Plex, beginning the process by which the city will either transfer the service back to the energy company or annex the area to which it provides electric service.

“This is a matter of responsibility and accountability for local government,” says PRECorp CEO Mike Easley, stating that the City of Gillette has legal authority to annex the property and remove it from the company’s certificated territory.

“PRECorp has questioned the city’s continual plans to annex, but the city has taken no concrete steps to annex the property.”

According to Lunne, the city is indeed set to begin the process of annexing the land.

“The council had an agenda item for their March 18 meeting to set a public hearing for annexation,” he says. “They need to prepare the documents to initiate and the process will begin a few weeks after that. The council has been reviewing this for a while, looking at it from different points of view.”