San Nicolas calls EPA ‘highly opinionated’

Eric San Nicolas

Eric San Nicolas

A Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board director derided a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency letter on issues with the utilities company’s vacant management positions as “highly opinionated” last week.

During a board meeting last Thursday, board Eric San Nicolas called board chair Adelina Roberto’s letter back to the EPA on the vacant positions a “great response.”

He called EPA’s comments “pretty opinionated…in my opinion” and “biased” and “very inaccurate.”

“That letter from EPA, from (EPA Water Enforcement manager Ken) Mr. Greenberg almost paints a picture that we are uncooperative,” he said.

He alluded to a meeting with the Department of Justice and legal counsel where it was asked to clarify whether they had to “go beyond Region 9” or the local area in their hiring search and whether “the court order expounded” on this.

“We are not intentionally countering” orders “EPA has issued to us. We need to clarify that CUC is doing it’s doing its due diligence.”

According to a Senate report by a legislative fiscal analyst this week on CUC issues, CUC has responded to the earlier May 25 letter from EPA on vacant management positions.

The letter largely alleged that CUC systemically failed to address vacant stipulated court order positions.

“CUC responded to this letter and sent three candidates that were all rejected for the executive director position,” David Demapan, the fiscal analyst, disclosed.

“EPA was not happy as none of the candidates were even close to matching the requirements and one didn’t even have a degree,” Demapan added.

The May EPA letter highlights long-standing personnel vacancies that EPA says are “adversely impacting operations,” such as lengthy vacancies in three of eight senior management Stipulated Order 1, or SO1, positions, for an executive director, deputy executive director, and division manager for drinking water and wastewater.

“EPA and the United States Department of Justice have repeatedly expressed concerns regarding CUC’s inadequate hiring commitment,” said EPA Water Enforcement manager Ken Greenberg said, noting that as a courtesy earlier this year, the EPA and DOJ met in person with members of CUC.

As part of that discussion, Greenberg said, the CUC board members agreed to “widely re-advertise these key positions” to notify both qualified “local and off-island persons of the positions.”

“However, the CUC board soon breached this promise and limited its advertising to CNMI outlets, including for the executive director and deputy executive director positions,” Greenberg added.

In addition to causing further delays and failing to meet its promise to the United States, Greenberg said, the CUC board’s action conflicts with the June 2 letter and the court-approved Second Joint Stipulation.

“CUC’s limited search was also unsuccessful,” he added.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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