Sunday, November 23, 2008

Federalization formality

The Commonwealth Utilities Corporation agreed to review and approval of many of its actions by the federal Environmental Protection Agency under the terms of last week's stipulations.

Like it or not, that's federalization. Technically, it is only the formality described by CUC Executive Director Antonio S. Muna. The stipulations were negotiated months ago.

But, according to an EPA press release:
The orders were lodged with the U.S. District Court in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands simultaneously with the filing of a complaint by the U.S. Department of Justice to address violations of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act at facilities owned and operated by CUC. The orders will take effect when signed by the District Court judge following the conclusion of a 30-day public comment period.

When that happens, Stipulated Order Number One has minimum requirements for a number of positions, including future Executive Directors. Deadlines kick in: for hiring of qualified staff, for an organizational evaluation and reorganization plan (subject to review and alteration by EPA), for (approved) procurement procedures, Standard Operating Procedures, comprehensive training programs... you get the idea. Stipulated Order Number Two deals with oil handling.

It's only for wastewater, drinking water, oil storage, pipelines and spills. Basically, everything but the power plants. And it's bound to be expensive, within 180 days there is supposed to be :
A financial management plan which can generate sufficient revenues to cover drinking water and wastewater operations and compliance activities, planning and design of the proposed Village of Kagman wastewater treatment plant, the proper management of oil and used oil from the PP Facilities, oil spill prevention and response activities, as well as any other anticipated related expenses, including all existing debt and expected debt service and the build-up of a financial reserve, discussed more fully below, including the establishment of a rate structure to generate sufficient revenues, until development of the Final Financial Plan based on an approved Master Plan;

"In the past people wanted to hide from bad news," the Saipan Tribune quotes Gov. Benigno R. Fitial as saying. "We decided to fix the problem instead."

That's twenty years of catch-up in a short time, but this looks like it might work.

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