Monday, November 2, 2009

CUC's penalty phase

The Commonwealth Utilities Corporation *may* be facing $630,000 in penalties from the Environmental Protection Agency. Quick, who didn't see this coming?

I use the word may because the Saipan Tribune is incredibly vague about its source. "In a Sept. 30, 2009 conference with EPA, it was disclosed that that the United States is seriously concerned with CUC's lack of compliance with many important provisions in stipulated orders 1 and 2," the article says. We'll just have to assume a letter or report on the conference is being referenced, because the article is full of 'EPA said'(s).

According to the story "There are a total of 13 provisions that were not met by CUC under the two stipulated orders. EPA described the actions as “alarming.”"

At the time they were reported, I thought that 'Stipulated Order Number One' and 'Stipulated Order Number Two' amounted to de facto federalization of CUC. (Sorry, I couldn't find links to the orders at the U.S. Department of Justice, the Northern Marianas District Court or the EPA.)

The CNMI had been stalling EPA for years, so I was optimistic when Gov. Benigno R. Fitial reportedly said he agreed to the stipulations because "We decided to fix the problem instead."

Then, in June, CUC Deputy Director Bruce Megarr told the Public Utilities and Infrastructure Committee the utility was unlikely to meet EPA deadlines. Uh, oh. Here we go again.

The timing is interesting, because the Governor 'owns' CUC's problems after endless Emergency Declarations.


I was looking in all the wrong places. The Saipan Chamber of Commerce has a treasure trove of Public Utilities Commission documents available for download. They include Stipulated Order Number One and Stipulated Order Number Two.

An October 16, 2009 letter signed by EPA Project Coordinator Michael Lee and On-Scene Coordinator Michelle Rogow seems to be the source for the Tribune article.

(Time to rewrite this, but I'm out of time. Also, I may have to rethink my opinion that the Chamber just isn't relevant to small business owners.)

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