11 Call for Action: Mom denied utility emissions study

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A new environmental report has been ordered for the Martin Drake Power Plant in downtown Colorado Springs. The EPA is requiring the report to see if the city is in compliance with the new sulfur dioxide emissions standards.

During an 11 Call for Action Investigation it was discovered an old emissions report wasn't made public. Colorado Springs resident Leslie Weise requested that report through the Colorado Open Records Act. Weise was concerned for her family's health after learning sulfur dioxide can cause respiratory issues. Leslie's request was denied.

"They claimed it was attorney/client privilege," Leslie told 11 News. "I considered that ridiculous because it was a technical study about air quality, and this is a municipal owned utility, this isn't a private utility."

When Leslie appealed that decision, a court clerk mistakenly sent her a copy of the report.

"I opened it and quickly realized the report showed the pollution from this plant, showed violations of the air quality study, so I was very concerned," said Leslie.

Leslie then shared some of the report with 11 News partner The Gazette back in November. She told them at the time, the Drake Power Plant "consistently exceeded federal limits on sulfur dioxide emissions."

"The next day the Colorado Springs city attorneys asked the court to impose sanctions on me for even talking about this report that I believe and still believe belongs to the public," said Leslie. "This is a public safety and health issue that we should all be concerned about, especially for the people living in the plume section west of these smoke stacks. You can see the pollution coming out."

An open records report filed by 11 News was also denied.

The court ultimately decided Leslie's case, which could have resulted in jail time for her. She agreed to shred her copy of the report and no longer discuss what it said. Leslie is agreeing and not discussing it now.

"It affects free speech rights," stated Leslie. "I was simply talking about what I considered to be public information and information that pertains to public health and safety."

On Tuesday before city council, Colorado Springs Utilities and the state health department agreed to do a new study. The new study will be made public. They say the original report was flawed because the data was taken at the Colorado Springs Airport.

"The monitor near the Drake Power Plant shows we are attaining the health standard while these models show we are not attaining," said Lisa Devore with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "So the state wants to find out one way or another if we're in compliance with the standard."

Leslie says since that original report, the Drake Power Plant now has machines that are expected to fix the air.

11 News won't be able to compare the new report with the old report as long as Colorado Springs Utilities keeps it a secret.

The same company that did the original sulfur dioxide study has been contracted to do the new study for Colorado Springs Utilities. The new study will gather data at the power plant and not at the airport.

Those results are expected in the summer.