Court rules in favor of pipeline project

Posted by Pam Zubeck on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 3:33 PM

Southern Delivery System
  • Colorado Springs Utilities

"Pleased" probably doesn't even get close to the feeling of those at Colorado Springs Utilities, given a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling upholding the state's approval of a certification for the Southern Delivery Pipeline water project.

Nevertheless, that's the word used in a news release by John Fredell, SDS program director, regarding the water quality permit issue.

The ruling means a hurdle that has been cited by Pueblo County in correspondence with the Interior Department as a roadblock for SDS has been removed. Here's Utilities' news release announcing the decision:

The Colorado Court of Appeals today reversed a Pueblo County judge’s ruling against a state water quality certification for the Southern Delivery System (SDS) project.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the state Water Quality Control Commission’s approval of the SDS certification was consistent with applicable laws and regulations and was supported by substantial evidence. The decision reverses Pueblo County District Court Judge Victor Reyes’ April 2012 ruling against the Water Quality Control Commissions’ unanimous decision approving the 401 water quality certification.

“We are pleased that the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in support of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” said John Fredell, SDS Program Director. “We always believed that the state Water Quality Control Division did a thorough and complete evaluation of SDS and correctly decided that it would meet State water quality standards. We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has recognized that. It is unfortunate that this matter had to be resolved in the courts, which is a costly process and one that goes against our approach of collaborating with other local governments and stakeholders.”

SDS was required to obtain a water quality certification from the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) in conjunction with obtaining the Army Corps of Engineers section 404 dredge and fill permit for the project under the Clean Water Act. The CDPHE Water Quality Control Division certified that the construction and operation of the project would comply with all applicable state water quality requirements. The Division issued that certification with conditions, and in April 2010, the Water Quality Control Commission unanimously upheld the certification.

Bill Thiebaut, the Pueblo County District Attorney at the time, and The Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition appealed the Commission’s decision in Pueblo County District Court. In April, 2012, Pueblo County District Court Judge Victor Reyes ruled against the Commission’s decision. The state and Colorado Springs appealed the District Court’s decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which issued today’s decision overruling the District Court and upholding the original 401 certification.

“Today’s decision is one more major milestone for the SDS project, which is proceeding on schedule and under budget,” said Fredell.

The 42-page decision can be found here: SDS_401_decision.pdf

In short, it concluded:

There is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commission’’s conclusion that the Division’’s conditional section 401 certification meets the federal standard of providing reasonable assurance that the SDS will be conducted in a manner which will not violate applicable water quality standards. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is reversed.

Comments (2)

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Colorado Springs Utilities blatantly did not meet the requirements to receive approval of the permit. Judge Reyes reviewed the law and reviewed the permit listen to the testimony and decided that the Colorado Water Quality Control Division's approval of the 401 permit which read similar to "Though Colorado Springs Utilities has not met the requirements for approval of the 401 permit, we believe in our hearts that they will do the right thing" The judge decided that the feeling in your heart isn't the same as meeting the requirements. Judge Reyes was right I am not sure what the Colorado Court of Appeals was looking at, Evidently the feeling in the heart of a branch of government is better than the law.

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Posted by Rick12 on 07/19/2013 at 10:00 AM

the older I get, the less I trust our courts.

Sometimes Decisions are based on the law and facts, and sometimes it all depends on who owes who a favor.

Don't know which is the case here - maybe the Appeals Court is packed with Republicans, or folks who were born in P-town and couldn't wait to leave, or maybe the Judges did their level best to render a fair decision.

But one thing is clear about Pueblo fighting SDS - they have gotten so accustomed to using our water that they now seem to think it is theirs.
Next time a Pueblo politician sues to stop the project, CSU should turn off the trans-mountain diversion and let our water flow down the fryingpan to the roaring fork and into the Colorado.
See how they like them apples.

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Posted by Brian Scott on 07/20/2013 at 2:47 PM
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