Mayor Steve Bach on Monday gave the head of Colorado Springs Utilities a Christmas Eve deadline to answer a long list of questions about the coal-fired power plant downtown.
In recent weeks, Bach and Utilities CEO Jerry Forte have been corresponding about the Martin Drake Power Plant’s future, which is at the center of a contentious debate.
Proponents say the plant provides cheap and reliable electricity and will keep rates relatively low.
Others say the aging facility is a blight on downtown and will require ratepayers to invest millions of dollars to meet looming environmental regulations.
The City Council, acting as the Utilities Board, is conducting a decommissioning study despite moving forward with plans to install sulfur dioxide scrubbers at the power plant.
Bach, a nonvoting member of the board, said last week that he tries “very hard” not to get in the way of Utilities. But he also said he believes Colorado Springs residents expect the mayor to weigh in on matters of community interest.
The letters between Bach and Forte started Nov. 27 when Bach asked Forte to answer questions he said he had asked a week earlier during the Nov. 19 utility board meeting.
“I have not yet received your responses, and I would appreciate answers to the following questions” by Dec. 5, Bach wrote in the two-page letter to Forte.
Among Bach’s questions: What would it cost under mid- to long-term purchased power contracts to replace the capacity at Drake, a 254-megawatt power plant?
Forte met the mayor’s deadline but didn’t provide the answers the mayor wanted.
Forte said the mayor’s questions about the costs of energy produced at Drake would be answered as part of the decommissioning study.
“The purpose of complete analysis is to provide accurate data for informed decision-making. We look forward to your participation,” Forte wrote.
Forte also said Utilities asked surrounding utilities about the projected costs per kilowatt hour under mid- to long-term purchased power contracts but came up empty.
“None provided firm power quotes,” Forte wrote.
Forte wrote that a reliable estimate could require a formal request for proposals.
Bach and Forte met in person five days later in the mayor’s office.
“The data you provided to me are very helpful, but do raise a number of questions in the context of some of the information that has been presented in the public domain about Martin Drake and the other CSU plants,” Bach said in his latest letter, dated Monday.
Bach raised questions about how much has been spent for the sulfur dioxide scrubbers going into Drake. The emissions control technology was invented by Springs-based Neumann Systems Group Inc.
Bach also wants Forte to answer whether “costs may be imposed” on Utilities as a result of the lawsuit threatened by the Sierra Club, which claims a history of federal Clean Air Act violations at Drake as well as the Ray Nixon Power Plant south of the city.
Bach listed 18 questions in all — and gave Forte a Dec. 24 deadline to answer them.
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