Fletcher justifies CUC management decisions, expenses

Posted on Feb 03 2014
[B][I]Second of a two-part story[/B]

Editor’s Note: Commonwealth Utilities Corp. executive director Alan Fletcher spoke up Friday to justify the agency’s decisions on several matters, which he claimed were made to ultimately stabilize utilities services to customers. This story continues from yesterday’s story.[/I] [B]Pipeline project[/B]

In 2011, CUC had the approvals and was ready to build the oil pipeline project, after finally securing funding. Unfortunately, the professional EPA-approved construction manager, after questioning design issues, left the project. At that time, EPA disapproved the design and required the project to be redesigned to more closely adhere to U.S. Department of Transportation standards.

“The result has been that the project price has increased. The higher costs are due to the fact that we had to engage a professional pipeline designer from the U.S. mainland who could design the project to the standards required. In addition, there are extra regulatory requirements CUC has to comply with which cost money,” said Commonwealth Utilities Corp. executive director Alan Fletcher.

CUC, he said, is very concerned about the cost of the pipeline. CUC must, however, continue to work with the court and EPA to complete the project or face fines and/or possible receivership of the project. The District Court orders issued last October directed CUC to enter into a contract directly with a named EPA-approved engineering firm. CUC is working to expedite the project so that it can be completed this year.

[B]Renewable energy[/B]

Fletcher disclosed that CUC has pushed forward with renewable energy planning, and the results of the 2013 Renewable Energy Integration Study have begun to answer important questions concerning how much renewable energy (solar, wind) can be reliably integrated into the Saipan electrical grid.

“Developing new power generation sources is a major undertaking and can take many years to implement. Due to the immense cost of new energy sources and the long-term rate implications to customers, exceptional care must be taken in identifying new energy sources,” he said.

[B]Striving for success[/B]

“CUC is striving for continued successes and in overcoming the numerous challenges it faces. We are doing this always with our customers first and foremost in our minds. We seek to avoid the failed management and operating practices that resulted in collapse, public health and environmental compliance violations, and the everyday problems that can plague any utility. We are attempting to build a modern, efficient system that operates with adequate safeguards for public health and the environment, coupled with reliability and the lowest costs prudently possible. The employees of CUC have made a lot of progress over the last few years and we have seen successes in more reliable power, water, and wastewater services. We still have a long way to go and, without question, balancing scarce financial resources against service levels and reliability is our greatest challenge,” concluded Fletcher.

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