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
Citizen advocates acting to protect and conserve Connecticut's public trust waters.