Sierra Club, Tri-State continue negotiations

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— The company that owns the Craig power plant and the Sierra Club have agreed to continue with negotiations instead of going to court.
Lawyers from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., which owns the Craig station, and Sierra Club were supposed to argue in court on Oct. 16 if the power plant had broken environmental laws in the '90s.
However, the two sides agreed to continue negotiating to try to reach a settlement by the end of the month, said Jerry Demel, vice president of external affairs for the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc.
"We're negotiating the details right now," Demel said. He wouldn't comment further on the negotiations.
Reed Zars, the lawyer for the Sierra Club, said both sides in the case agreed not to talk about the details until an agreement is reached.
However, he said he was optimistic that the outcome would be acceptable to the Sierra Club.
"We are going to be satisfied with the resolution that we will get," Zars said.
He said there was a basic agreement on the fundamental issues at hand, and now the details have to be hashed out.
According to the lawsuit, the environmental group is accusing the Craig station of violating the Clean Air Act thousands of times from 1991 to 1996.
Citing data from the power plant, the Sierra Club claims units 1 and 2 on more than 14,000 occasions emitted more than the allowable density of particulate in the air.
Zars said there was a connection between high acid counts in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness and the power plant.
In 1997, U.S. Geological Survey scientists John Turk and Bob Campbell concluded in a study that acid deposition was killing aquatic life in the wilderness area, located seven miles northeast of Steamboat Springs. The study said the power plants in Hayden and Craig were contributors to the problem.
Tri-State denied breaking the law and contended any and all violations at the 1,264-megawatt plant were well within the limits of the law.
The Sierra Club filed the lawsuit in 1993. Since then, legal maneuvering has been done by both sides.
The most recent move was made by Tri-State when the company unsuccessfully attempted to disqualify Sierra Club attorneys, modify monitoring reports and introduce additional reports to the case.
Federal District Judge Edward W. Nottingham rejected the company's efforts in an Oct. 5 decision.
Zars said Nottingham's decision was a key reason why the two sides are negotiating instead of battling in court.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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