On behalf of the City Attorney's Office, Cynthia Covell, the city's water attorney, and Karl Kumli, the city's federal regulatory attorney, I feel compelled to respond to a letter to the editor from Maurice Emmer ("City Hall spending irresponsibly"). Emmer accuses the city of violating federal law in its conduct with regard to the Castle Creek Energy Center. Under no circumstances or legitimate interpretation of the law has the city violated federal law. This accusation was irresponsible but unfortunately consistent with the type of accusations that the city has faced throughout the hydro debate.
Emmer, who is not a water or utility attorney, is free to express his opinions regarding the law. With all due respect, however, Emmer is simply wrong. Had Emmer researched the issue prior to composing this letter, he would have found that opponents of the project raised this very issue regarding unauthorized project construction with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. After considering arguments, the commission ruled that the city's activities were not in violation of the law.
Whenever the city faces an area that requires special legal expertise, it obtains that expertise. With regard to the Castle Creek hydro project, the city consulted two eminently qualified attorneys: Cynthia Covell and Karl Kumli. Covell has practiced as a water lawyer for 30 years and has served as Aspen's water counsel for 19 years. Her knowledge and expertise are well known and respected throughout the state. Kumli, who specializes in public utility and water law with a primary focus on federal regulations, also has practiced law in this particular area for more than 30 years and is also well respected in his area of practice. With their guidance, the city proceeded with the hydro project, and every step taken was well thought out and certainly legal.
The city has been guided on the legalities of the Castle Creek Energy Center by qualified legal counsel. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous to the readers, the people of Aspen and the attorneys who in fact have done nothing but obey the law.
If anyone wishes to discuss this matter, please feel free to call me at 970-920-5108.
James R. True
Aspen city attorney