Here's a news flash: The Utilities Board is divided over the Martin Drake Power Plant in lower downtown.
For 90 minutes Wednesday, the board, comprised of Colorado Springs City Council, wrangled again over the coal-fired power plant that supplies well over a quarter of the city's power. The Council has agreed to study mothballing the plant in the next 15 years.
Councilors Tim Leigh and Angela Dougan won't give up trying to halt installation of the NeuStream emissions control equipment that will remove sulfur dioxide in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency regulations expected to be in place by 2017. Leigh said that he didn't know if the technology would work, and that a third party should verify it.
Leigh is famous for sending out his so-called "market report," typically full of innuendo-laden questions about whatever subject is at hand. In those reports, he repeatedly has referred to the Springs-based Neumann Systems Group's invention as experimental and even likened owner David Neumann to the scammer traveling salesman, Professor Harold Hill, in The Music Man.
For the record, Leigh has been wrong in these "market reports," as noted by Utilities CEO Jerry Forte in a September communication to him. Forte closed his letter, obtained by the Independent, saying:
It would be helpful if you could work with staff prior to issuing statements that may miss significant facts, timing or context. I would also very much appreciate it if you could issue an appropriate correction of the facts to your distribution list. Should you have anymore questions, please feel free to contact either Bruce [McCormick, energy officer] or me.
It's unclear whether Leigh ever corrected himself, because I don't receive his market reports. Leigh told me he intentionally cut me from his recipients list, because he doesn't consider my reporting to be accurate.
Anyway, Leigh's tirade on Wednesday was all too much for Councilor Lisa Czelatdko, who sternly reminded Leigh that some time back, he reported to his colleagues in an e-mail that just such a third-party test had been conducted by someone from South Dakota, which found the technology effective and scalable to higher megawatt levels beyond the 20-megawatt test so far conducted.
Leigh then declared himself "agnostic" — meaning he lacks faith and belief in the Neumann system, saying many questions remain unanswered.
Dougan was more aggressive, saying that to study decommissioning Drake was "asinine" and that the board was "doing this absolutely backwards."
Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin reminded Leigh and Dougan that the Council has already acted, voting 5-4 months ago, to install the Neumann technology. "I just believe it's time to move forward rather than to continue to rehash old arguments," Martin said.
Czelatdko and Councilor Brandy Williams said they're preparing to select a consultant that will help them form a task force to draft a request for proposals for the Drake study.
That's where the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance comes in, as it always seems to do when a pile of money is at stake. This new incarnation of the Chamber and EDC wrote a three-page letter to Council on Monday outlining not only how the task force should be formed, but what interests it should represent and what the process for the panel should be.
One citizen, Kanda Calef, took issue with no regular Joes being part of the mix under the BA's plan. And the letter riled up Czelatdko, who noted that many of those at a private meeting called by developer Steve Schuck in September to discuss selling the electric utility are those advancing the Business Alliance's involvement. She then reminded everyone that the Utilities Board's job is not to promote an economic development agenda, but rather to fulfill its fiduciary duty by providing ratepayers with the best rates possible.
Here's the Business Alliance's letter:
Although Councilor Merv Bennett argued gently but repeatedly in favor of appointing the task force before the first consultant is hired, Williams and Czelatdko resisted, saying they'll follow their original plan.
The study is to be completed in 2013.
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