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Noted: State joins SDS appeal 

State joins in appeal

Colorado Springs Utilities isn't alone in thinking Pueblo County District Judge Victor Reyes made a mistake.

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has voted unanimously to stand with Utilities in opposing Reyes' decision to overturn the state's 401 water quality certification for the Southern Delivery System. Reyes had ruled the state commission didn't adequately account for Fountain Creek pollution caused by the SDS pipeline, which will increase Colorado Springs' water supply by a third by 2016 by delivering water from Lake Pueblo. After certification in 2010, the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut sought judicial review, resulting in Reyes' ruling.

State Commissioner John Klomp, a former Pueblo County commissioner, made the motion to appeal the ruling, noting that sufficient controls are in place and that Colorado Springs complies with the rules, the Pueblo Chieftain reports. Utilities spokesperson Janet Rummel says SDS construction continues. — PZ

City hiring six lawyers

City Attorney Chris Melcher's office plans to hire six new attorneys. In an e-mail to the Indy, Melcher cites two longtime vacancies in its Utilities division and two in the litigation division. Two other Utilities attorneys are leaving, the e-mail adds, to take non-legal positions at Utilities "that allow for rewarding professional development."

Utilities CEO Jerry Forte and his top executives approved filling the four Utilities attorney vacancies, the e-mail says. Utilities will pay the salaries. Mayor Steve Bach also agreed to fill the two jobs in litigation. Since Melcher's 2012 budget included funding for those attorneys, no change will be made.

Melcher also recently eliminated one prosecutor position, using the saved funding to pay for a litigation specialist. — JAS

Region wants road money

Mayor Steve Bach and other area leaders are crying "no fair" after reviewing state funding for transportation. Based on population, the leaders say the state has underfunded the Pikes Peak region for six years, totaling a loss of $135 million — more than enough to rebuild the Fillmore and Cimarron interchanges with Interstate 25.

The state claims the shortage is due to an overall funding cut and a change of focus to basic maintenance. The city drew attention to the squabble last week, after releasing a letter and e-mail exchange between the Pikes Peak Region Mayors Caucus and Don Hunt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. — JAS

Ultra won't share

A shareholder proposal requiring Ultra Petroleum to report on the risks of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the company lost ground during a shareholder meeting this month. Only 35 percent of shareholders supported the resolution, less than the 42 percent who voted for it last year ("Close UP," cover story, Jan. 26).

In 2010, 21 percent of shareholders backed the resolution from As You Sow, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that promotes shareholder advocacy. Opposing the resolution, Ultra's directors said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that Ultra already takes such risks into account and "is committed to conducting its business in a manner designed to comply with all applicable environmental laws and regulations." Such a report would be "a wasteful use of money," the board said.

Ultra owns 18,000 acres in Colorado Springs, where it wants to drill. It already has started wells in El Paso County. — PZ

Carson comments sought

The Army's Environmental Assessment says a combat aviation brigade at Fort Carson "would not result in any significant impact on the natural and human environment." Now it's up to the garrison commander to sign off on the attached Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), or order an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The assessment, announced via legal notice on p. 72 of the Indy's May 16 issue, is available for review online and at libraries throughout the region. The brigade promises to bring 2,700 soldiers and 113 helicopters to the Mountain Post, starting late this year.

"No decision has yet been made on whether this will result in a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) or the decision to file a notice of intent for an EIS," Carson spokeswoman Dee McNutt says via e-mail. "The Garrison Commander will make that decision probably at the end of June, beginning of July."

Three counties' commissioners and La Junta's City Council have called for a more in-depth EIS. A 30-day public comment period ends June 14. To comment, write to U.S. Army Environmental Command, Public Comments (IMPA-AE/Kropp), 2450 Connell Road (Building 2264), Fort Sam Houston, Texas 78234-7664, or e-mail US-ARMY.JBSA.AEC.MBX@mail.mil. — PZ

U.S. 24 assessment out

In the future, U.S. Highway 24 could receive a major revamping, but environmental impact must be considered. The state has released an Environmental Assessment of the proposed project, and the public has until July 11 to comment on the findings.

The document can be viewed online at coloradodot.info/projects/us24west.

A public hearing will take place June 11, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Community Partnership for Child Development office at 2330 Robinson St., in Colorado Springs. The meeting will include a presentation on the proposed alternative. — JAS

Lee earns accolades

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, found his second year in the state House less productive than his first year, as his more-ambitious bills failed to survive the legislative process. However, after a very stressful end to the session, Lee walked away with a unique endorsement — unique for El Paso County legislators, anyway.

Colorado Conservation Voters sent a release last week praising Lee and 30 other legislators as "environmental champions." Lee was the only El Paso County legislator on the list. Representing the downtown and western parts of Colorado Springs, as well as Manitou Springs, Lee faces a November challenge from Republican Jennifer George. — CH

Compiled by J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

  • Also: City hiring six lawyers, region wants road money

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