HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration is offering a bill in the final days of the legislative session that would require Connecticut’s largest regional trash authority to undergo an extensive audit so the state can get a better handle on the organization’s troubled finances.
The legislation also requires the quasi-public Connecticut Regional Resources Recovery Authority to develop a transition plan for achieving long-term financial stability or a plan for the possible dissolution of the authority and disposing of CRRA’s assets, including the potential closure or sale of the Mid-Connecticut Resources Recovery Facility in Hartford.
CRRA manages garbage and recyclables for 75 of the state’s 169 cities and towns and has warned it will have to close its trash-to-energy plant at the end of the 2014 fiscal year unless there’s a viable alternative plan.
“CRRA is clearly having financial difficulties and we want to understand what portion of those financial difficulties can be fixed and what part can’t and figure out if it still makes sense to have CRRA operating with the same mandate, the same scope as it has been, or whether it makes sense to make more dramatic changes,” said Luke Bronin, Malloy’s legal counsel.
The legislation, which will be offered as an amendment before the General Assembly adjourns June 5, also creates a task force that will examine the fiscal health of the state’s trash-to-energy industry, which has been hit hard by depressed wholesale energy prices. That group is scheduled to produce a list of recommendations for possible law changes by Dec. 15, in time for the new legislative session.
This latest legislative proposal comes a month after Malloy’s office considered a different bill that would have allowed the state to purchase electricity produced at CRRA’s Hartford trash-to-energy plant for two years. It was a temporary move that was supposed to provide the authority time to come up with a long-term plan.
But Bronin said the administration decided to take more time to explore possible solutions to help the struggling industry and get a clearer picture of CRRA’s financial condition.
“Before we commit to anything, we want to see the results of the audit that we’re requiring,” he said. The findings are due by Oct. 30.
The idea of the state purchasing power from CRRA, as well as possible power agreements between trash-to-energy plants with cities and towns, will be among the concepts reviewed by the new task force.
Bronin said the administration’s goal is to try to make sure Connecticut “doesn’t abandon the trash-to-energy model that has served us well” and avoid unnecessary uncertainty, disruption and high costs for cities and towns. He said the troubles the trash-to-energy industry faces could be an opportunity “to try and transform that sector into something more sustainable and more effective.”
Donald Stein, chairman of CRRA’s board of directors and first selectman of Barkhamsted, said the board had hoped the General Assembly would have passed another bill this session that would reclassify electricity generated by trash incinerators and allow the authority to receive a higher per kilowatt value. However, that legislation did not make it out of committee.
Stein said that change would help the authority buy time to come up with a financial plan for the future
“We’re doing the best we can and we’re working with the state to try and come up with a business model that makes sense,” he said.
Besides the required audit and financial plan for CRRA, Malloy proposed in his budget transferring $30 million from the trash authority to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to cover the planned transfer and care of five CRRA landfills in the state. A final agreement on a new two-year budget has not yet been reached between Malloy and the legislative leaders.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.