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TOWN HALL: Attack on SDS is political, not environmental

By: WAYNE LAUGESEN
April 16, 2012
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Don’t be fooled. The nuisance lawsuit against Southern Delivery System is not about water quality. It’s about good-old-boy politics masquerading as law. Colorado Springs will prevail, as it has throughout this process.

After years of scrutinizing plans for the 62-mile pipeline, which will transport water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs and points in between, Pueblo County officials signed off on it. So did state and federal authorities. The pipeline has been studied and challenged in every manner conceivable, and today it’s getting built.

So here comes Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut, pulling a last-minute stunt that’s intended to trip up the project. In Pueblo, some politicians without inspiring agendas resort to throwing darts at their big, bad neighbor to the north. If you can’t do something constructive, tear something down and at least a few will applaud.

Thiebaut campaigned in 2011 on a get-tough-with-SDS platform. He told The Pueblo Chieftain that his opponent, Jeff Chostner, had been too kind to Colorado Springs as a Pueblo County commissioner. He even suggested that Colorado Springs was backing his opponent.

“In my opinion, he should be tougher on making sure that the SDS conditions are being met instead of being too cozy with Colorado Springs,” Thiebaut said in a 2011 Pueblo Chieftain article. “Because I am a thorn in their side, I only hope that they have not talked him into running and slinging mud at me.”

Time, money and effort Thiebaut could use to fight crime have been wasted in his desperate, Hail Mary efforts to stop a pipeline that is a major boost to his region’s economy. For his latest volley, Thiebaut teamed up with the radical Rocky Mountain Environmental and Labor Coalition in a lawsuit against the state’s Water Quality Control Commission and Colorado Springs.

Thiebaut asked a hometown colleague, Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes, to set aside a Section 401 permit (pertaining to the federal Clean Water Act) that was approved in 2010 by the Water Quality Control Commission. Reyes cooperated.

Should the courts stop SDS? Vote in poll to the right. Must vote to see results.

His ruling is no surprise. As a judge, Reyes is supposed to act as an impartial arbiter. That means his association with Pueblo politics should have no effect on an SDS decision. We cannot claim it did, for certain. We are concerned, because Reyes is not known for impartiality. Colorado’s Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation admonished Reyes, in its 2008 recommendation of retention, for “his tendency to mandate that fines be paid to a charity in which he is personally involved.” The report claims that Reyes demands cash bonds “especially by individuals who obviously lack the financial resources to do so.” Reyes was given a below-average review by attorneys. In what sounds like an objectivity concern, the commission recommended that Reyes “undertake improvement efforts” and “attempt to demonstrate a higher degree of compassion and understanding for all (emphasis ours) those who appear before him.” That’s “all” — as in, perhaps, not just some. The negative information in his review suggests that Reyes indulges favoritism, which means he’s the judge you want if you’re a Pueblo politician trying to hurt Colorado Springs.

Here’s the good news. This ruling is nothing more than a small victory for a cadre of politicians who needed good reason to slap each other on the back, if just one more time, before SDS is complete.

Most Pueblo residents are excellent neighbors who do not wish ill on the Springs. That’s why a majority of Pueblo politicians gave Colorado Springs permission to build the pipeline through their jurisdiction in the first place, and for that we thank them.

Those who wish to stop SDS seem to oppose the creation of up to 13,175 new jobs in the region, by 2020, that will not exist without it. SDS will generate billions in prosperity for all of Colorado. Second only to greater Colorado Springs, Pueblo stands to benefit most. Each time some politician tries to impede this project, be sure to thank him for his efforts at stifling prosperity and jobs throughout southern Colorado.

That's our view. What's yours? Please initiate or join in a Facebook discussion below, and vote in poll to the upper right.

Friend editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen on Facebook, follow him on Twitter

Must-see-daily site: Complete Colorado


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