- Casey Bradley Gent
On Feb. 8, environmental activist Leslie Weise and Colorado Springs Utilities reached a joint settlement. Consequently, the Colorado Court of Appeals dropped a contempt citation against Weise, and Weise dropped her appeal of an El Paso County District Court decision denying her a privileged Utilities document.
The court battle began when Weise, suspecting that the downtown Martin Drake Power Plant was emitting too much sulfur dioxide, requested an air quality model created by a Utilities consultant. Utilities refused, saying the document is protected by attorney/client privilege. Weise filed in district court to force Utilities to release the record. Though the court denied Weise's request, the court inadvertently sent her the report she sought, then forbade her from sharing it. She discussed it with other parties, so Utilities pursued legal penalties. The settlement brings the case to a close.
In related news, on Feb. 9, the environmental group WildEarth Guardians filed suit, alleging Utilities failed to properly monitor opacity of particulates entering the atmosphere for 300 cumulative hours between 2011 and 2016. The suit asks for Utilities to be fined $37,500 per violation, amounting to over $112 million, and to cease operations until appropriate equipment is installed. Utilities has denied the allegations, saying that it has monitored opacity as instructed under regulations; that any pause in monitoring was caused by routine maintenance, which is allowed under the law; and that during any pause they used other means to track opacity.