The MDC District Board overwhelmingly approved “Economic Development Rates” in the form of high-volume discounts for both water and Clean Water Project (CWP) rates at its Match 2, 2020 meeting. As proposed, the only MDC customer who qualifies for discounts is Niagara Bottling of Bloomfield. Four District Board Commissioners voted against the ordinance changes: Lester (of Bloomfield), Ionno (of Hartford), Magnum (of West Hartford), and Avedisian (of Windsor).
The MDC conducted a Public Hearing on these discounts a week earlier on February 24. As reported by the Bloomfield Messenger, (“MDC Discounts Meeting Packed,” February 28, 2020), it was standing-room only and local news media estimated approximately 100 people attended. Virtually everyone who spoke at the hearing was opposed to the discounts; only three individuals, representing Hartford-based organizations, spoke in favor. All public comments (spoken and written) that were submitted for the hearing are now available on the MDC’s website:
There were 271 total comments, 3 in favor of the discounts, 268 opposed to the discounts.
The MDC’s rationale for offering the discounts was that if Niagara increases its water usage, then the MDC might be able to lower water rates for all customers. Using the most recent data provided by the MDC, under the scenario of maximal Niagara water use, the average residential customer might see their water bill drop by 67 cents/month ($7.92/ yr). However, the 90,000 MDC customers with MDC sewer who also pay the CWP rate might each ultimately need to contribute up to $24/yr more to offset Niagara’s $2.2 million discount on the CWP rate. The total value of both discounts for Niagara could reach $2.6 million/yr.
Opponents of the discounts argued that a large corporation shouldn’t get discounts while residents pay more. David Silverstone, the MDC Independent Consumer Advocate, submitted remarks stating that Niagara was already steadily increasing water consumption and that current data suggests the discounts are an ill-advised bet that will hurt, not help, the MDC’s finances.
Save Our Water CT held a press conference and rally outside MDC headquarters prior to the Board’s vote on the discounts. State Senators Derek Slap and Saud Anwar, State Representative Bobby Gibson, and local social & environmental justice advocates Dr. Mark Mitchell and Alex Rodriguez made statements to the news media opposing the discounts. Senator Slap is currently working with other legislators on a bill that would increase regulatory oversight of the MDC.
See the March 2, 2020 Hartford Courant coverage by Josh Kovner (“Lawmakers want more control over MDC”www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-mdc-niagara-water-discount-20200303-4tnl3ibl35bnlmcaxlutmfzig4-story.html?fbclid=IwAR1eLm74CJDx-sDyrNr3qNOx6anjozvb1O4hKU-Nh2VQk7K0Xy72e56T6oY ).
Save Our Water CT is disappointed that despite overwhelming public opposition at its public hearing, the MDC District Board voted tonight for high-volume discounts that will benefit one customer - Niagara Bottling of California. As pointed out by David Silverstone, the MDC Independent Consumer Advocate, the financial rationale presented by the MDC to justify the discounts is not supported by the available data.
The two discounts, one for water and one for the Clean Water Project Charge, could result in the forfeit of up to $2.6 Million per year in MDC revenues, money that could be used to reduce residents’ water rates or fund water assistance programs. The MDC’s goal of subsidizing this already-established and expanding business, which profits from MDC’s Class A water, is ill-advised and environmentally unsound.
We suggest that the MDC staff and the District Board look at other ways to address MDC’s revenue challenges and consider alternative rate structures that will stabilize the costs of essential household water use, benefit residents first, and insure equitable incentives for businesses of all sizes and varieties.
Save Our Water CT opposes the proposed MDC combined water and Clean Water Project Charge discounts being offered to large corporate super-users.
The MDC faces real financial challenges from problems decades in the making: repairs needed for aging water and sewer infrastructure, a consent decree to clean up sewage overflows into the CT River, and an overall decrease in water consumption. For resident ratepayers, especially low-income families, increasing water rates are challenging budgets and forcing families to choose between water and other essential needs.
Creating a corporate discount, which applies to one super user- Niagara Bottling of California- is not the solution to challenges faced by the MDC or its low-income customers.
Statement of the Independent Consumer Advocate on Proposed MDC Ordinance Changes
"The Independent Consumer Advocate(ICA) submits this statement in opposition to the proposed Economic Development Rate (EDR) which is the subject of the public hearing of February 24, 2020. All of the evidence currently available demonstrates that the EDR will not produce additional revenue for the MDC. In fact, based on the evidence available, the EDR will reduce revenue from the only customer in any position to take advantage of this rate and as a result, increase the revenue which must be raised from other customers.
The ICA agrees that a major driver of the 2020 water rate increase is the decrease in sales. It articulated the reasons for this decrease in its December, 2019 statement regarding the proposed rates for 2020. Further, the ICA supports measures, including rate design, which encourages the prudent use of additional water by existing and new customers which increases water revenue. The current proposal, however, risks existing revenue and if anything, is likely to exacerbate the conditions which led to the 2020 water rate increase.
The current proposal establishes a threshold for a discount at 600,000 gallons a day or 802ccf. This is an increase from the original proposal set by the Revenue Committee of 500,000 gallons a day. (The ICA submitted a statement regarding the original proposal indicating that it put over $200,000 of revenue at risk based on consumption in the first 11 months of 2019. Shortly thereafter, this new proposal was submitted to the Public Works Committee). Based on the revised numbers, and with consumption through January 2020 now available, this new proposal puts at risk approximately $115,000 of revenue. That is, if 2020 consumption mirrors 2019 consumption, MDC will collect $115,000 LESS revenue than it did in 2019, further exacerbating the revenue shortfall.
There is only one customer who comes anywhere close to, or exceeds, the 600,000 gallon threshold. In 2019, that customer exceeded the threshold in 6 of the 12 months of 2019. Importantly, for the last 8 months for which data is available (through January 2020), this customer exceeded the threshold in 7 of those months. Given that the discount for consumption above the threshold amounts to approximately 50% (water rate discount of 20% and Clean Water Project Charge discount of 75% produces a weighted average of approximately 50%.), the MDC will lose $115,000 in revenue if 2020 consumption mirrors 2019.
There seems to be some belief that by giving this discount and putting over $100,000 of revenue at risk, consumption will increase sufficiently to offset this revenue loss and in fact add additional revenue. The ‘bet’ is that if MDC gives up $100,000, it will get this much back and more by enacting this rate proposal. The data indicates that this ‘bet’ is ill advised.
The customer eligible for the discount has been steadily increasing its consumption, without any discount. In January 2020, for example, it increased its consumption by approximately 50% over its January 2019 consumption—711,000 gallons a day in 2020 as compared to 475,000 gallons a day in 2019. Given that there appears to be some seasonality in consumption by this customer (based on 2019 data), it makes sense, before betting $115,000, to at least get data from the summer months in 2020 to determine if this level of increase in consumption continues without the discount. For example, if there were an increase in August consumption comparable to the 50% increase in January, the result would be an average consumption of over 1.3 million gallons a day—about the capacity of the currently installed production equipment.
The data that currently exists strongly indicates that this customer’s consumption of water is not price sensitive. That is, its consumption is not based on price. Of course, this doesn’t mean that other customers are not price sensitive and that there are not rate designs that could encourage prudent, increased water consumption. The data simply indicates that for this customer, price does not appear to affect how much water it uses.
Before betting $100,000 of revenue that will have to be made up by other customers, the MDC needs some data, some evidence, that the bet will prove worthwhile. The available data for the current proposal indicates just the opposite. The MDC should reject the proposal at this time."
Independent Consumer Advocate
Save Our Water CT 2-10-2020 Comments on MDC's "Economic Development Rate" Proposal
1. Reality of Drought Regulations: Last week (2-3-2020), the M.D.C.'s C.E.O. tried multiple times to sidestep a question of mandatory reduction in Niagara water use during drought. MDC could TALK with Niagara and could PLAN for shutdowns, but it has no authority to prioritize water use during drought triggers. MDC’s own Water Supply Plan indicates that mandatory industrial limits would not occur until its reservoirs are at 10%! So, while residents will be asked to conserve, lawn watering will be prohibited, and municipal use curtailed, bottles will be leaving the watershed and the state. If the MDC is SO sure that there will NEVER be drought restrictions, why did it furiously lobby against sensible state regulations state regulations to require a renewable permit based on safe yield and to limit water bottling once residential restrictions went into effect? In CT, all water transfers of more than 250,000 gallons/day of water out of watersheds in pipes require permits- but not those done by trucks!
2. Realities of the Rate Discounts: The M.D.C.'s C.E.O represented- at last week’s board meeting and in the press -that an increase of Niagara’s water use to its max of 1.8M gallons/day would result in a water rate decrease of 10 cents per ccf to all customers & therefore, be a very good deal. It assumes that Niagara’s water usage would increase 1.2M gallons/day or 1604 ccf/day (1 ccf = 748 gallons) for 363 days/yr.
If Niagara were to increase its water use by THAT much (1604 ccf/day for 363 days = 582,354 ccf/yr), here’s what MDC revenue would be WITHOUT DISCOUNTS:
If MDC offers Niagara BOTH a 20% water rate discounts and a 75% CWPC discount (based on sending out 75% of its water in bottles and only ~25% into the sewer), here are the figures:
And, if there is NO increase of water use and discounts are given for water over 600,000gallons/day, MDC could stand to lose $116,000/year ($116,000 - $23,000 from water, $93,000 from CWPC).
The additional income MDC is expecting from ordinance changes for their one super-user are at best speculative. These discounts, narrowly constructed for just one industry, are not economic development rates and are not the solution to long term rate increases. They will not offset the ever-increasing bills MDC’s projects into 2060. Revenue generated by the sale of Class A water to bottlers should be fully used to subsidize residential rates or water assistance programs, not corporate profits.
Governor Ned Lamont signed CT's first comprehensive State Water Plan on October 23, 2019 at the CT Water Works Association's 2019 meeting to "Imagine a Day Without Water".
The work to implement the plan has already begun, under the direction of an executive action signed by prior Governor Dan Malloy. Initial issues of focus for the Water Planning Council's Implementation Group include the state's drought plan and the health and safety of the state's private well water system.
CT HOUSE AND SENATE PASS RESOLUTION APPROVING THE STATE WATER PLAN, WITH PUBLIC TRUST LANGUAGE INTACT! On Tuesday, June 4th, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Joint Resolution 171, approving the draft of the state water plan. As the clocked ticked towards adjournment last night, the Senate also approved the plan. It is expected that Gov. Lamont will sign the legislation.
A long, hard-fought battle by citizen water advocates to insure that our water resources were recognized as a public trust resource bore fruit.
Legislators added an amendment to HB 7194 stating that in the event of any conflict between any provision of the state water plan and any provision of the general statutes, the provision of the general statutes shall control. According to environmental lawyers, this is a re-statement of fact.
THANK YOU to all the citizen advocates who wrote, called, emailed tirelessly over these last two years. And thanks to Governor Lamont for standing up to water utility and business lobby pressure!
Commemorate U.N. World Water Day with an update on CT's waters at the Legislative Office Building. On Friday March 22cd, there will be a one hour, information packed presentation with speakers from the legislature, environmental advocacy groups, and state agencies. Learn what's happening with issues such as the state water plan, contamination of our aquifers with toxic chemicals, watershed lands at risk of development, and the potential hazards of climate change. See the program handout below.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6,
Save Our Water CT
Citizen advocates acting to protect and conserve Connecticut's public trust waters.