January 4, 2017
CONTACT: Jacquie Ostrom, 719-238-1993
Judicial Panel to Consider if Criminal Sanctions Should be Imposed Against Local Mom Who Learned of Colorado Springs Utilities’ Air Quality Violations
A three-judge panel at Colorado Court of Appeals will consider if concerned parent should receive sanctions and/or fines for whistleblowing
Denver, CO – On Friday January 6th, at 10am, El Paso County resident Leslie Weise has been ordered to appear in the Colorado Court of Appeals to determine if her efforts to seek truth and transparency regarding a damning air quality report that Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) has prevented the public from seeing will be met with sanctions and fines from the Court. Weise was inadvertently given access to the secret report after she filed a petition in District Court for release of the report under the Colorado Open Records Act. CSU has requested the Court of Appeals to punish her for speaking about it.
Who: Three-judge panel at Colorado Court of Appeals will consider if concerned parent Leslie Weise should receive sanctions and/or fines for whistleblowing Colorado Springs Utilities’ Air Quality Violations; many Weise supporters plan to be in attendance wearing red.
What: Colorado Court of Appeals to consider if Weise should be punished for whistleblowing Colorado Springs Utilities’ Air Quality Violations.
When: Friday, January 6th, at 10am
Where: Colorado Court of Appeals, 1st floor of the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center at 2 East Fourteenth Ave, Denver 80203
Why: More than 1,400 Coloradans have signed a petition and over 45 business and community leaders have signed a group letter asking Colorado Springs Utilities to release the air quality report showing non-compliance of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and drop their threat of sanctions, fines and imprisonment against Leslie Weise. Dozens of community members protested outside the Utility Board meeting last month and 15 residents spoke during the public comment period of the meeting, calling for transparency and dropping charges against Weise. A separate letter was sent by the City of Manitou Springs Mayor and City Council expressing their concerns over the air quality impacts to their community located just west of the Martin Drake Plant.
Nevertheless, CSU and the Utility Board appeared unmoved and are proceeding with their legal force to silence and punish Ms. Weise. CSU’s CEO Jerry Forte continues to claim that SO2 emissions from the coal fired Martin Drake Power Plant have been in regulatory compliance despite all of the multiple professionally-completed air models revealing dangerously high spikes in SO2 along the foothills of the Pikes Peak region. The EPA designated the region “unclassifiable” for the SO2 standard for safe levels of air quality. Nearly 300,000 people and 120,000 children live within a five mile radius of the Martin Drake Plant.
The combination of CSU withholding the air quality report whose non-compliance results were made known through Weise’s Court filings and the media and CSU filing for sanctions and fines against Weise has many citizens questioning the management and operations of their municipally-owned “schoolyard bully” Utility and its governing Board. Many supporters of Weise’s efforts plan to attend the court proceedings Friday, in what they consider to be a David vs. Goliath fight, with the City of Colorado Springs trying to silence a brave, single mother concerned for the public and the safety of her son attending elementary school near the Martin Drake Plant.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) has been found by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to cause severe health impacts in concentrations as low as 75 parts per billion. Exposure to SO2 for as little as five minutes can cause respiratory distress, increased asthma symptoms, and aggravate heart disease; impacts are felt most acutely by children, the elderly, and asthmatics.
While the air quality report (created by AECOM under contract from CSU) applies only to SO2 concentrations, many local residents are concerned about other by-products of burning coal, some of which can cause cancer, birth defects and respiratory ailments, and are pushing for Colorado Springs Utilities to transition to clean renewable power sources, which are now at cost-parity or in some cases cheaper than fossil fuel energy. Residents and local leaders are demanding transparency via the release of air quality reports from Colorado Springs Utilities and dropping legal action against Leslie Weise for bringing air quality violations to the light of day.
Visuals: Supporters of Leslie Weise will be at the hearing wearing red in solidarity symbolizing courage, strength and fighting for what we love.
- Read more about the coverage in the Denver Post here.
- Read more Colorado Springs Gazette coverage here and here.
- See 9News Denver here.
- Colorado Springs Business Journal coverage here.
- Letter from Businesses and Community leaders to CSU and Utility Board here.
- Citizens Petition – 1,400 signatures here.