Coast Guard, EPA assess CUC $10M

Counsel: CUC developing plan to limit further assessments

To date, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has been assessed approximately $10 million by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency related to clean up of oil contamination on Saipan and Rota, according to CUC legal counsel James S. Sirok.

In CUC’s status report filed in federal court on Monday, Sirok disclosed that approximately $2.13 million of the $10 million is an EPA assessment amount.

The CUC report referred to the amount as an “assessment.”

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge David O. Carter will hold a conference on Aug. 27 to review CUC’s report on the status of CUC’s actions and activities associated with Stipulated Order 1 and 2 (SO1 and 2).

SO 1 focuses on drinking water and wastewater and the restructuring of CUC’s organization.

SO 2 focuses on oil issues and also applies to oil spills and the remediation of the contaminated power plants.

While payment for this $10 million is still in dispute, Sirok said CUC will continue to be assessed by EPA for monitoring activities coordinated and directed by EPA environmental engineer and on-scene coordinator Michelle Rogow using, at times, third party contractors performing services for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

To limit further assessments against CUC for these activities, CUC, through its SO2s Technical Manager for Oil, has been talking to the U.S. Department of Justice and EPA for the ultimate purpose of assuming the required monitoring activities at power plants 1 and 2 on Saipan and at the power plant on Rota, Sirok said.

He said CUC has been informed that its assumption of these activities must occur under a specific plan developed by CUC, which in turn would be approved by EPA’s on-scene coordinator and the DOJ.z

Sirok said the parties are approaching this task in a positive manner, with EPA and DOJ agreeing that CUC may perform these activities under an approved plan.

CUC’s TMO is in the process of developing the plan.

Sirok said there does not appear to be conflicts as the parties move through this process.

CUC has inquired with DOJ Environmental Enforcement Section senior attorney Bradley R. O’Brien and EPA assistant regional counsel Janet Magnuson and EPA environmental engineer F. Russell Mechem II whether TMO monies may be used for some costs associated with these activities such as costs and expenses related to the repair and maintenance of the oil recovery and monitoring system at power plants 1 and 2 areas.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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