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Angst follows Utilities



The Sierra Club lost a round last week when Colorado Springs City Council, sitting as the Colorado Springs Utilities Board, voted against settling a lawsuit the club has threatened over the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant.

The vote was 5-3, with Val Snider, Merv Bennett and Tim Leigh on the losing end.

The Sierra Club vowed in September to bring an action alleging Clean Air Act violations, which pivots on claims that city-owned Utilities modified the Drake and Ray D. Nixon power plants without proper authority, and in doing so made them heavier polluters. The club says in a release it will continue to seek an "amiable" solution.

Generally, though, amiability is sparse when it comes to Utilities issues these days. For one thing, Leigh continues to fire away at Neumann Systems Group, the maker of emissions removal technology being installed at Drake, calling the technology unproven although it's been shown to work in third-party assessments. Now that's led to an ethics complaint.

Attorneys for company owner David Neumann wrote to City Attorney Chris Melcher on Nov. 27, citing Leigh's "false and libelous statements" about the technology. It also noted that Leigh is associated with Hoff & Leigh, a realty company that lists properties on its website located near Drake. That indicates Leigh has a financial interest in potentially closing Drake, which could happen more quickly if Neumann were out of the picture.

On Dec. 10, Neumann filed a complaint with Melcher and Council alleging Leigh violated his loyalty to Utilities by interacting with special interest groups, including the Sierra Club and Xcel Energy; made negative public comments and gave false information about Utilities, its staff, directors and vendors; and agreed to disrupt a contractual agreement between Utilities and his company.

In that complaint, Neumann didn't specifically call for an Independent Ethics Commission review. But Dec. 12, Neumann did file such a request, and the complaint has been forwarded to the commission, Melcher says. No meeting date has been set.

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