by Pam Zubeck
City Council meets today at 1 p.m. in closed session on a matter involving Colorado Springs Utilities.
It's not a reach to suppose that session will deal with demands from Sierra Club to shut down Martin Drake Power Plant. The deal probably won't go quite that far — yet — but likely will include a months-long delay in installing emissions control technology on Drake until a study is completed about how and when to retire the coal-fired generating plant that dates back more than 80 years. The study is to be completed next year.
According to documents obtained by the Independent under open-records laws, City Attorney Chris Melcher's office has been working with Sierra Club on the QT. An e-mail from Sierra Club's lawyer to Melcher dated Nov. 14 states:
Sierra Club is interested in seeing if we can work out an arrangement in which Sierra Club would not file a Clean Air Act citizen lawsuit enforcement action regarding NSR [new source review] violations at Drake and Nixon during the pendency of Colorado Springs' evaluation of the prudency of retiring the Drake plant. We discussed in our meeting last week some of the elements we would want in that arrangement. After further internal discussion, we have some additional elements which we believe are in everyone's best interest. I will draft a proposed agreement and forward it to you all as soon as possible for your review.
Will you all be seeking City Council approval of this arrangement in principle or does City Council have to approve the exact language of our agreement?
You can read the Sierra Club's letter in which it threatens to sue, along with the e-mail correspondence that followed, here:
It's unclear whether the deal puts off installation of the Springs-based Neumann Systems Group emissions equipment, but the fact the deal is being made in secret troubles Patrick Davis, who has served as a consultant for Neumann.
"These types of closed-door secret meetings inevitably breed contempt and foster distrust of elected officials," Davis says. "Utility ratepayer owners deserve know what's going on behind those closed doors."
Council has previously approved installing the Neumann technology, from which ratepayers stand to gain 3 percent of gross sales for years to come on other systems sold by Neumann.