ARPA Resolves Years Long Legal Battle with WildEarth Guardians



ARPA, Arkansas River Power Authority and the Lamar Utilities Board have ended their legal battles dating back to 2009 with the environmental group, WildEarth Guardians, over the emissions levels from the Lamar Repowering Project.  The agreement resolves two lawsuits filed against the utilities relating to air emissions levels. 

The utilities groups will pay $450,000 in the settlement; of that $225,000 will be paid to Denver University, $100,000 to WildEarth Guardians and $125,000 to various environmental projects which will benefit ARPA member communities.  ARPA General Manager, Rick Rigel, said those projects have not yet been determined.  The agreement will be reviewed for 45 days by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency before it becomes effective.  Rigel said the utilities have 60 days to develop their environmental plan for approval.  A similar, smaller settlement was paid about two years ago on another legal issue.  Rigel said he had no specific idea what the total legal cost was to both ARPA and LUB, but the settlement dismisses all actions against both entities by WEG, but also prohibits the Lamar Repowering Project from running at full capacity until January, 2022 except for testing periods.  That is the same time frame that ARPA has contracted for outside power sources for its member communities in southeast Colorado and Trinidad.  The ARPA legal issues budget for 2013 was listed as $993,641, but a portion of that was for the Trinidad litigation which has not been resolved. 

Rick Rigel, ARPA General Manager

Rick Rigel, ARPA General Manager

The press release, issued during a special LUB meeting on Thursday afternoon, stated in part:  “ARPA and LUB self-reported certain emissions exceedances at the Lamar plant to state regulatory authorities and have agreed not to resume commercial operation until the emission issues have been fully resolved.  Changes implemented in 2011 at the plant achieved significant emission reductions, and additional modifications are expected to be made to the facility later this year which are expected to bring the plant into full compliance.  ‘ARPA and LUB work hard to make sure we comply with all applicable laws and environmental regulations,’ said ARPA General Manager Rick Rigel.  ‘By agreeing to resolve these lawsuits with WildEarth Guardians, we will avoid future litigation expense and free up the resources we need to continue providing safe and reliable electricity to our customers.’   He added in the release, “The settlement will return a significant portion of funds back to our member communities through environmental projects.”

Rigel said modifications made by the boiler manufacturer, Babcock and Wilcox are still pending, but negotiations with ARPA have been on-going to decide who holds the financial liability for the problems with the Repowering Project.  He said that will have to be resolved and the findings will also be non-binding.  Babcock and Wilcox have attempted to correct boiler related problems since the plant was shut down two years ago.  Since that time, ARPA has been purchasing electric power off the grid for member communities including Lamar, Holly, Las Animas, Springfield, La Junta and Trinidad.  Raton, New Mexico had been a member, but sued for separation from ARPA three years ago over the Repowering Project cost overruns.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinesscommunityCountyEconomyEmploymentEnvironmentFeaturedHealthHollyLamarProwers CountyPublic SafetyUtilities


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