Bye Welcomes Committee Passage of Bill Requiring Independent Consumer Advocate For MDC
HB -6008 received a favorable vote from the Planning and Development Committee in the state legislature and will hopefully move on to consideration in the House of Representatives later this session. See: www.senatedems.ct.gov/bye-news/473-bye-170324#sthash.kaaH8WOR.vdIQkaC0.dpbs
The Metropolitan District Commission, which provides drinking water to 8 Hartford area municipalities, came under intense fire this past year. First, with its decision to offer water and clean water project charge discounts to multi-national California water bottler Niagara. Secondly, with its last minute demand for contingency funds from municipalities to avoid a damaged bond rating should the city of Hartford default on its ad valorem sewer payments.
The 29 member MDC board, comprised of both legislative appointees and commissioners appointed by its member towns, was criticized for its lack of communication with member town councils, and its lack of transparency with the public.
The consumer advocate, funded with $50,000/yr by the MDC, would be an attorney with experience in utility law and public advocacy. The position would provide a set of "eyes and ears" to the public on maters of consequence to the general public, both in member towns and in non-voting towns served by the MDC.
Sen. Beth Bye, Rep. Derek Slap, and Rep. David Baram all worked to forward the legislation out of committee. Save Our Water CT considers this a good first step in restoring public trust to the agency.
Will the public ever be allowed access to water planning information?
Thanks to Jon Lender, the secrecy surrounding water utility water supply plans is once again in the news. See; www.courant.com/politics/hc-lender-secret-water-20170313-column.html
published in Sunday March 19th in the Hartford Courant.
Water utilities are required to file supply plans every 8-10 years with the Department of Public Health, documenting what they estimate is their "safe yield" for water projected far into the future. The plans contain numerous details about where our water comes from and goes, drought triggers, and projections for future use. They also contain critical security information on their contingency plans, control systems, chemical storage locations, and other details that no one in the environmental community wishes disclosed. But the fears of terrorism involving the water supply system are now being used to withhold ALL details of water utility plans from the public or water planners. Analysis of our critical natural water resources, which may be increasingly under threat from climate change, is being removed from the pubic domain.
Negotiations have been ongoing since 2003 to develop a methodology for the water utilities, the Department of Public Health, and environmental water advocates to share this information in a way that both preserves critical infrastructure information and allows public access to planning information. One idea is to submit these plans in 2 forms: one closed to the public and another with agreed-upon public information. But each year talks have broken down leaving the plans essentially under lock and key.
HB 7221 in this year's legislature seeks to enact clear guidelines as to what water utility information IS actually critically secure and deserving of protection. That would allow the vast majority of the plan to be open to environmental planners and the public, without the lengthy fights that currently occur.
Val Rossetti of Save Our Water CT still has yet to see a single word of the MDC 2008 plan, requested back on March 1st of 2016. We're not yet holding our breath.
Public Hearings Monday March 13th 10:30 AM Legislative Office Building:
Save Our Water CT
Citizen advocates acting to protect and conserve Connecticut's public trust waters.