Story here in Southwestern
Connecticut - reverse chronological order.
Picture worth a thousand words department...
Top left, true "gridlock."
for background on the 345kV project.
for yet another Stamford fire problem.
contents for this
NEW ADMINISTRATION, OLD ISSUE?
HOW ABOUT POWER OUTAGES IN CT?
are we not surprised? Government accountable to whom?
Infighting Plagues Governmental Accountability Office
Jon Lender, Government Watch
5:23 PM EST, November 17, 2012
There are probably novels of international intrigue with plots less
convoluted than the past year's events inside the newly created state
Office of Governmental Accountability, or OGA.
The OGA is a super-agency created in 2011 by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and
the Democrat-controlled state legislature, over Republicans'
objections, in a consolidation bill that merged nine formerly
independent watchdog agencies — including those in charge of elections
enforcement, public officials' ethics enforcement, and freedom of
information. Several of the watchdogs resented becoming divisions
in a superagency headed by a Malloy appointee, and predicted there
would be problems. Now, some of those problems and resentments
are surfacing in public.
On Monday, the Government Accountability Commission, made up of
representatives from all the watchdog divisions in the new superagency,
is scheduled to vote on whether to approve a 10-page, detailed
evaluation it has written on the job performance of the OGA's executive
administrator, David Guay, Malloy's $118,000-a-year appointee.
That's right: A commission composed of people from divisions of the
OGA, below Guay on the organizational chart, is formally evaluating him
as the head of the agency. What's more, their evaluation finds his
performance lacking in certain areas — and, conceivably, if Guay does
not address the criticisms to their satisfaction — the underlings could
try to fire him.
"While the [Government Accountability Commission] has the authority to
terminate [Guay], Commissioners would prefer to work with him to
identify areas that need improvement and resolve them," says a draft of
the evaluation that's to be voted on Monday.
The Courant obtained the draft Friday via a public records request.
Here's an excerpt, which gives an area where the panel says Guay needs
"Regular communications by [Guay] with the division heads have not been
established. It is unusual for him to visit any of the division offices
or to meet with the division heads one-on-one. This failure on the part
of [Guay] to engage in two-way communication regularly is a primary
concern. … It would be beneficial if communication from [Guay] were
more pro-active rather than reactive."
The evaluation says he did a lot of things right, too — but here's
where the story gets even more complicated: Guay says the watchdog
divisions' commission, although it was established by the 2011
legislation that created the OGA, has no legal authority over
him. That puts him and the commission on collision course.
Guay says the watchdog panel doesn't have the power to evaluate him. He
says it didn't have the power to compile the long list of
"expectations" for his performance that it wrote last February,
including deadlines by which he was supposed to accomplish certain
And so he wrote a letter Friday to the chairwoman of the commission —
Carol Carson, whose full-time job is as executive director of the
Office of State Ethics, one of the OGA's divisions — and politely
declined its invitation to attend the Monday meeting, at which his
evaluation is to be considered.
"Thank you for the invitation to the November 19, 2012, meeting of the
Governmental Accountability Commission (GAC) and by this communication,
I am informing you that I will not be in attendance," Guay wrote.
He said it appeared that "the GAC continues to attempt to set and
measure its own expectations of the Executive Administrator; however as
I've previously stated, the authority to supervise or direct the
activities of the Executive Administrator was not granted to the GAC by
the General Assembly."
Sounding perhaps a little optimistic under the circumstances, Guay
concluded: "I look forward to the continued collaborative work of each
of our divisions within the Office of Governmental Accountability."
Monday's upcoming meeting is the second that Carson's panel asked him
to attend to discuss the pending evaluation. Guay also declined to
attend a session on Oct. 25 — and the panel did not take kindly to it.
"It is of grave concern to the GAC that the [executive administrator]
is unwilling to meet to discuss the status of the consolidation or to
collaborate on ways to make it a success as he enters his second year
of employment at the Office of Governmental Accountability (OGA)," the
draft of the evaluation says.
Who's In Charge?
The battle over who's in charge at the new Office of Government
Accountability has been building for about a year — and its origins
rest in the way the 2011 legislation was written by majority Democrats,
in response to critics who said the independence of the watchdog
agencies would be compromised by the merger.
Republicans voiced much of that criticism. One of them, state Sen.
Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, suggested that the proposed
organizational structure was fundamentally flawed, with "these
individuals coexisting on the commission that has oversight over the
multiple sub-agencies. … I can't seem to grasp what happens when you
have a major conflict."
Democrats in the administration and legislature were careful to
structure the new agency so its executive administrator — Guay, as it
turned out — could not tell the head of each watchdog division what to
do. In other words, Democrats said, the administrator was the
head of the agency, but those in the divisions were not his
"subordinates." He's the boss — but he's not their boss.
The consolidation was done for reasons of office efficiency and budget
savings, the Democrats said, and it would not affect the watchdog
divisions' regulatory and enforcement operations. But by creating
that unique structure — or, as critics characterized it, but trying to
have it both ways — they left room for differing interpretations of,
and disputes about, who has the right to do what. In particular,
the creation of the watchdog divisions' commission — the so-called GAC
— led to the current battle.
The GAC was created to demonstrate that the watchdogs were not being
robbed of their voices in the new superagency. The law gave the
GAC two specific duties.
The first was to "meet for the purpose of making recommendations to the
Governor for candidates for the executive administrator of the Office
of Governmental Accountability" — which it did in 2011, resulting the
hiring of Guay, who had been director of the State Board of Accountancy
for 22 years.
The second was to meet "for the purpose of terminating the employment
of the executive administrator," in case that ever became necessary.
Guay bases his position on the fact that the law mentions nothing about
the GAC setting "expectations" for his performance or evaluating
him. But Carson argues that there's no way the GAC could ever
decide to terminate the executive administrator's employment if it does
not first establish standards and expectations, and then measure
whether he met them. When Guay declined to attend the Oct. 25
meeting of Carson's panel, at which members discussed the evaluation
that now has been drafted, he called Malloy's chief legal counsel,
Andrew McDonald to inform him that he wasn't going to the session,
McDonald said Friday. McDonald said he told Guay it was "his call."
McDonald said "Mr. Guay's interpretation seems to be a very plausible
reading of the statute in its simplest terms. The statute … constrains
the commission's activities to two very discrete purposes" — holding
meetings to either recommend job candidates for administrator, or to
fire that administrator.
McDonald said he's not intervening in the dispute, but added that if
Carson and her GAC want to "undertake activities that are not included
in the statute," they might get "an opinion from the attorney general
that allows them to."
Carson said although the law doesn't mention evaluating the
administrator, a Democratic state senator said during the 2011
legislative debate that the GAC would "have the power to evaluate and
terminate the Executive Administrator." That shows what the
"legislative intent" was, Carson said.
McDonald said a state statute says that if a law is understandable on
its face, it should be obeyed without delving into "legislative intent."
Carson said the law is unclear, and the legislative intent establishes
that her panel can evaluate him. What will her panel do if Guay
does not heed the evaluation and address its recommendations? Would it
try to "terminate his employment"?
"It could give him another set of expectations and set up another
meeting to give him a chance to meet … those that haven't been met,"
If he didn't comply, it theoretically could try to terminate him, she
said. All of that would have to be discussed in depth, she said.
When Carson reported on the controversy to members of the Citizen's
Ethics Advisory Board last Thursday, one of the board members said it
sounded like the new governmental accountability office was
Guay had his own way of describing what it's been like to run what he
calls a "unique" state agency, which is a newly created collection of
units that enjoy unusual independence. "It's like flying the airplane
while you're building it," he said.
Power Customers Need A Real
Regulatory Authority: Where was the agency when CL&P's preparedness
plans were clearly inadequate?
Hartford Courant Editorial
Dec. 11, 2011
Connecticut Light & Power's hapless response to two storms
that left many hundreds of thousands without power didn't just besmirch
the power company's reputation. It also exposed the comatose response
of the state Public Utility Regulatory Authority.
The legislature and governor must force the agency to do more to
safeguard customers who underwrite CL&P's existence and may have to
foot bills of up to a quarter-billion dollars from this year's storms.
PURA (formerly the Department of Public Utility Control) acts like a
utility court, deciding through legal proceedings what Connecticut's
electric rates will be, what utility expenses ratepayers should pay for
and what they should not. It is supposed to dig into the details of how
utilities operate, including storm preparedness.
Clearly, CL&P's unreadiness for two powerful storms this year
reflects poorly not only on the company, but on the agency that is
supposed to oversee its plans.
The recently released Witt report made this clear. It showed that the
preparedness plans CL&P submitted to PURA last June defined a
worst-case emergency as a power outage of 100,000 customers or more,
occurring once every five years. That assessment — obviously woefully
inadequate — would involve 8 percent of CL&P customers or more. The
October snowstorm alone cut power to 70 percent of CL&P customers,
and three storms this year have each left more than 100,000 people
In contrast, United Illuminating's preparedness plan provides for a far
more realistic worst-case scenario of 71 percent of its customers
Where's Utility Authority?
So why didn't PURA reject CL&P's assessment and ask that the plan
be revised? Probably because regulatory agencies are not accustomed to
leaping into action, and also apparently because CL&P's plan is
still not considered final. But isn't six months long enough for the
agency to respond?
PURA has shown a disturbing pattern of not wanting to trouble
utilities. It abandoned its responsibilities to Connecticut ratepayers
when it inexplicably refused even a cursory examination of the
implications of Northeast Utilities' proposed merger with NStar, a
Massachusetts utility. NU is CL&P's holding company, and it is
obvious that such a merger could have an impact on rates. Given
this type of inaction, it is no surprise that Connecticut is in the top
five most expensive states for electricity in the United States.
Connecticut needs reliable power and a reliable regulator. It seems to
have neither at the moment. The state legislature and the governor must
act to ensure Connecticut residents have both.
Someone To Watch Over Poles
On another front, two voices for consumers are calling for an
independent administrator to oversee utilities' maintenance of aging
poles. The legislature ought to pave the way with changes in laws if
Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz
say that the devastation wrought by storms this year argues for just
such a monitor. Poles weakened "from neglect and mismanagement"
probably contributed, they said. An administrator could do what
CL&P has apparently failed to do — make the utility keep up with
maintenance. CL&P acknowledges that more than 45 percent of its
utility poles are beyond their life expectancy.
Not surprisingly, utilities want the state to stay away from their
poles. But those poles convey heat, light and communication. They are
too critical to the functioning of society to be neglected. They need
their own protector.
Thursday's outages and closed roads — including Routes 4 in Farmington,
63 in Morris and 305 in Bloomfield — showed (as if any more proof were
needed) that utility preparedness is a public safety issue that isn't
State's electric rates fall to
4th-most expensive in U.S.
BY BRAD KANE HARTFORD BUSINESS JOURNAL
Saturday, November 26, 2011 3:10 AM EST
Connecticut's notorious title as the state with the second highest
electric rates in the country appears to be slipping away.
Electricity prices in the Nutmeg State fell to 16.15 cents per kilowatt
hour in August, according to the U.S. Energy Information
Administration. This puts Connecticut's electricity prices behind three
other states: Hawaii, New York and Alaska.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports average state
electricity prices on a three-month delay.
Connecticut has been behind Hawaii for the last several years, as the
island state prices often are nearly double the second-highest priced
state.Hawaii's price per kilowatt hour was 33.91 cents in August.
New York typically has lower prices than Connecticut, except in the
summer months, when added demand spikes prices. New York's electricity
prices have been higher than Connecticut since June, and its price per
kilowatt hour in August was 17.16 cents.
The newest development was Alaska. Despite its remote location, prices
in Alaska tend to be lower than Connecticut. Not so in August, when the
Alaskan price per kilowatt hour rose to 16.30 cents.
Connecticut electricity prices have dropped steadily for the past two
years, down from around 18 cents per kilowatt hour to around 16 cents
per kilowatt hour. The drop is due to better transmission, fewer
government fees and a decrease in the commodity price of natural gas,
which powers an increasing number of the state's power plants, and a
number of other factors.
While the general trend in the nation has been lower electricity
prices, some states have not had the same rate of decrease as
Connecticut, such as New York or Alaska. Connecticut could drop lower
in the national rankings as well, as states such as California and New
Jersey are not experiencing drastic price drops.
High electricity prices don't always correlate to high electricity
costs, as the overall cost depends on the amount of electricity used by
the end consumer.Connecticut launched several energy efficiency
initiatives to combat its high prices, trying to decrease the amount of
electricity used in the state.
Mediation set for Conn. explosion
Published 11:51 a.m., Saturday, July 2, 2011
MIDDLETOWN (AP) -- Lawyers and a Connecticut judge will be meeting
later this month to try to settle at least 20 lawsuits filed by victims
of a Middletown power plant explosion that killed six workers and
injured nearly 50 others.
The first mediation session is set to begin July 18 at Middletown
Superior Court. Victims are suing the plant's operator, Kleen Energy
Systems, and several contractors that were working on plant, which was
under construction when it exploded on Feb. 7, 2010.
Investigators say something ignited 400,000 cubic feet of gas and air
that had accumulated during a gas blow, in which high-pressure natural
gas is pushed through pipes to clear debris.
The state legislature this month approved a law banning the use of
flammable gas to clean piping at power plants.
Odor From Kleen
Energy Plant Linked To Turbine Tests
test conducted Wednesday afternoon
The Hartford Courant
By JOSH KOVNER, email@example.com
3:44 PM EDT, May 18, 2011
Acrid diesel fumes wafting over neighborhoods surrounding the rebuilt
Kleen Energy plant in south Middletown earlier this week have been
linked to tests of one of the turbines, which is not yet performing at
optimum levels, fire officials and plant representatives said Wednesday.
Another test of the turbine was conducted Wednesday afternoon from 1:45
p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Dwayne Gardner, a spokesman with state Department of Environmental
protection, said six employees of the plant's general contractor,
carrying air monitors, fanned out in the surrounding neighborhood
during the Wednesday test.
Gardner said no fumes or diesel smoke were detected outside of the
plant's boundaries, and that the DEP received no new complaints from
area residents Wednesday afternoon. Gardner said the employees called
in from the neighborhood every 15 minutes with monitoring results, and
company representatives reported to the DEP.
Daniel Carey, spokesman for O&G Industries, the general contractor
and a minority owner of the $1 billion plant, acknowledged that
residents were not notified of an earlier test on Monday, which
produced acrid fumes that stalled over parts of south Middletown,
Portland and Durham in moisture-laden air and fog.
Residents on Monday night and Tuesday reported the odors to the South
Fire District, Middletown Health Department and the state Department of
The sprawling plant, built on a former feldspar mine overlooking the
Connecticut River, was partially destroyed in a deadly natural-gas
explosion on Feb. 7, 2010 that killed six workers, injured several
dozen others, and resulted in more than $16 million in federal fines
for safety violations against O&G, of Torrington, and other
contractors at the site. The blast led to a statewide ban on "gas
blows,'' in which natural gas was forced through pipelines at a
tremendous pressure to clear the lines of debris.
The plant's majority owner is Energy Investors Funds, or EIF, through a
Connecticut corporation called Kleen Energy Holdings, LLC.
The newly completed plant is in its testing phase, which will continue
for about another 30 days.
The turbines run on natural gas, but must also be able to burn oil as a
contingency plan. Carey said that fuel oil will be used again during
the testing phase and residents still may smell fumes on occasion.
"We didn't anticipate (that the Monday test) would create the odor
issues that it did,'' Carey said after plant representatives met with
South Fire District, city health, and state DEP officials Wednesday
He said residents were notified by phone of the test on Wednesday
DEP spokesman Dennis Schain has said inspectors were reviewing the
testing operations for any air-quality violations. No violations had
been filed against the plant as of Wednesday afternoon. South Fire
District Chief Edward Badamo has said the fumes don't represent a
Badamo said the turbines have to be "tuned in'' and will run more
efficiently when they are performing at full capacity.
Carey said the turbine on Monday was running slower and louder than it
would normally. He said under normal circumstances, the smoke would be
pushed through the stack with much greater energy and reach higher into
the atmosphere to dissipate.
Aging gas pipe at
risk of explosion nationwide
By GARANCE BURKE and JASON DEAREN, Associated Press Writers
13 September 2010
SAN BRUNO, Calif. – An ominous theme has emerged from the wreckage of a
deadly pipeline explosion in California: There are thousands of pipes
just like it nationwide.
Utilities have been under pressure for years to better inspect and
replace aging gas pipes — many of them laid years before the suburbs
expanded over them and now at risk of leaking or erupting. But
effort has fallen short. Critics say the regulatory system is ripe for
problems because the government largely leaves it up to the companies
to do inspections, and utilities are reluctant to spend the money
necessary to properly fix and replace decrepit pipelines.
"If this was the FAA and air travel we were talking about, I wouldn't
get on a plane," said Rick Kessler, a former congressional staffer
specializing in pipeline safety issues who now works for the Pipeline
Safety Trust, an advocacy group based in Bellingham, Wash.
Investigators are still trying to figure out how the pipeline in San
Bruno ruptured and ignited a gigantic fireball that torched one home
after another in the neighborhood, killing at least four people.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the pipeline's owner, said Monday it
has set aside up to $100 million to help residents recover.
say the California disaster epitomizes the risks that communities face
with old gas lines. The pipe was more than 50 years old — right around
the life expectancy for steel pipes. It was part of a transmission line
that in one section had an "unacceptably high" risk of failure. And it
was in a densely populated area.
The blast was the latest warning sign in a series of deadly
infrastructure failures in recent years, including a bridge collapse in
Minneapolis and a steam pipe explosion that tore open a Manhattan
street in 2007. The steam pipe that ruptured was more than 80 years
old. The section of pipeline that ruptured was built in 1956,
when the neighborhood contained only a handful of homes. It is a
scenario that National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman
Christopher Hart has seen play out throughout the nation, as suburbs
"That's an issue we're going to have to look on a bigger scale —
situations in which pipes of some age were put in before the dense
population arrived and now the dense population is right over the
pipe," he said.
Thousands of pipelines nationwide fit the same bill, and they
frequently experience mishaps. Federal officials have recorded 2,840
significant gas pipeline accidents since 1990, more than a third
causing deaths and significant injuries.
"In reality, there is a major pipeline incident every other day in this
country," said Carl Weimer, Pipeline Safety Trust's executive director.
"Luckily, most of them don't happen in populated areas, but you still
see too many failures to think something like this wasn't going to
happen sooner or later."
Congress passed a law in 2002 that required utilities for the first
time to inspect pipelines that run through heavily populated areas. In
the first five years, more than 3,000 problems were identified — a
figure Weimer said underscores the precarious pipeline system.
when inspections are done and problems found, Kessler said, there is no
requirement for companies to say if or what kind of repairs were made.
And Weimer added industry lobbyists have since pushed to relax that
provision of the law so inspections could occur once a decade or once
every 15 years.
Other critics complain that the pipeline plans are drafted in secret
with little opportunity for the public to speak out about the process.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is the
federal regulatory arm that enforces rules for the safe operation of
the nation's pipeline system, and has direct authority over interstate
pipelines. Most state public utility agencies have adopted the federal
rules and carry out inspections and enforcement of pipelines running
inside state boundaries. Asked if it plans to step up oversight
response to the San Bruno accident, the PHMSA issued a statement saying
it has investigators at the scene providing technical assistance to the
California Public Utilities Commission and to the NTSB as they
investigate the pipeline failure.
"We will evaluate what further action is necessary once we have
complete information," the agency said.
The system often relies on the pipeline operators like PG&E to
survey their own gas lines and decide which are high risk. The
American Gas Association disputes the notion that it cuts any corners
and says the industry is subjected to stringent state and federal
"Safety is unequivocally the No. 1 priority for the natural gas
transmission and distribution industry and always will be," spokesman
Chris Hogan said. "The industry spends billions each year to ensure the
safety and reliability of the natural gas infrastructure."
The challenge of ensuring pipeline safety is compounded by the sheer
enormity of the nation's natural gas network. The federal pipeline
agency says the U.S. has more than 2 million miles of pipelines —
enough to circle the earth about 100 times. The agency has only
100 federal inspectors nationwide to ensure compliance, meaning there
is no guarantee violators will be caught. "When you look at
two-and-a-half million miles of pipeline with 100 inspectors, it's not
reassuring," Weimer said. "To a grand degree the industry inspects and
Potential safety threats have grown as the pipeline network has
expanded and age takes its toll on existing infrastructure. More than
60 percent of the nation's gas transmission lines are 40 years old or
older. Most of them are made of steel, with older varieties prone
corrosion. The more problematic pipes are made of cast-iron. A few
places in Pennsylvania still had wooden gas pipes as of last year,
according to officials there.
Pipelines in heavily populated locations like San Bruno fall into a
category the industry refers to as "high consequence areas."
Those areas contain about 7 percent of the 300,000 miles of gas
transmission lines in the country, or roughly 21,000 miles of pipeline.
The category has nothing to do with the safety of pipelines, and was
created to put the greatest emphasis on the most populous
Industry watchdogs have criticized utilities for not being willing to
spend the money necessary to avoid explosions like the one in
California. The cost to replace lengthy stretches of pipelines can
exceed $30 million.
"They (PG&E) will prioritize and put off work to maintain their
level of earnings," said Bill Marcus, a California attorney whose firm
consults nationally with consumer protection agencies and nonprofits on
gas rate cases. "To some extent that's not bad, but it is concerning
when those decisions endanger public health or the environment."
PG&E said it has spent more than $100 million to improve its gas
system in recent years, and routinely surveys its 5,724 miles of
transmission and 42,142 miles of distribution lines for leaks. The
utility speeded up surveys of its distribution lines in 2008 and
expects to have completed checks in December, it said. PG&E
President Chris Johns said the pipe that ruptured was inspected twice
in the past year — once for corrosion and once for leaks — and the
checks turned up no problems.
A section of pipe connected to the line that exploded was built in
1948, and flagged as a problem by PG&E in a memo. PG&E
submitted paperwork to regulators that said the section was within "the
top 100 highest risk line sections" in the utility's service territory,
the document shows.
The fact that it's in an urbanized area that didn't exist when the pipe
was built is emblematic of a bigger problem nationwide, experts say.
"People have been waiting for a while for this type of disaster to
happen because of expanded construction near pipeline right of ways
without adequate prevention," said Paul Blackburn, a public interest
lawyer in Vermillion, S.D.
Calif. neighbors survey ruins of blasted
By TREVOR HUNNICUTT and GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press Writers
13 September 2010
SAN BRUNO, Calif. – Patrick Yu has had nightmares and headaches since a
fireball from a natural gas explosion caused his ceiling to crash down
next to him while he slept. He was one of many residents
to the ruined hillsides of their suburban San Francisco neighborhood
Sunday after Thursday's pipeline blast and fire destroyed nearly 50
homes and damaged dozens of others. The explosion prompted
regulators to order the utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, to survey
all its natural gas lines in the state in hopes of heading off another
Returning residents were wearing wristbands that show police they live
in the area. Yu said he crouched in the doorway after the blast,
thinking he was in the middle of an earthquake. When the shaking
subsided, he found that the heat had warped the door so much he had to
pull with all his strength to get out of the bedroom.
The 62-year-old learned Sunday that his house had been red-tagged,
meaning it has extensive damage and will require closer inspection
before authorities can declare it safe.
"I have lots of memories in that house," Yu said. "Lots of stuff you
A few blocks away, houses have collapsed into black and white debris on
ground, with a smell like charcoal in the air. All that remains
standing is a row of brick chimneys, while across the street, some
homes are undamaged. Pat and Roger Haro fared better. They and
dog, Rosie, have been living in a hotel room since Thursday after
fleeing their home with the clothes they were wearing, dog food, water
and an iPad. When they returned, their home was marked with a
tag — indicating less damage than others with yellow or red tags — and
their electricity was still off.
"Once I saw the house was still there, then I felt a whole lot better,"
Pat Haro said. "I think we'll be a tighter community."
Investigators were still trying to confirm how many people died.
The remains of at least four people have been found, and authorities
have said four are missing and at least 60 injured, some critically.
Two people reported missing after the blast were located Sunday, city
spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said. San Mateo County Coroner Robert
said they're still trying to confirm whether some of the remains are
human and identify victims. At a service Sunday morning at St.
Robert's Catholic Church, the Rev. Vincent Ring conducted a prayer for
"We turn to God and we ask for mercy upon all our brothers who are
hurting so badly, whose lives have changed so drastically and whose
help is so badly needed from us," Ring said.
Meanwhile, local and federal officials are probing the cause of the
explosion that blew a segment of pipe 28 feet long onto the street some
100 feet away, creating a crater 167 feet long and 26 feet wide.
risky segment of the gas line was due to be replaced, the utility
responsible said, because it ran through a heavily urbanized area and
the likelihood of failure was "unacceptably high." That 30-inch
diameter pipe a few miles north was installed in 1948 and slated to be
swapped for new, smaller pipe.
PG&E submitted paperwork to regulators for ongoing gas rate
proceedings that said a section of the same gas line about two and a
half miles away was within "the top 100 highest risk line sections" in
the utility's service territory, the documents show. The company
considered the portion that ruptured to be a "high consequence area"
requiring more stringent inspections called integrity assessments,
federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
spokeswoman Julia Valentine said.
Nationwide, only about 7 percent of gas lines have that classification,
PG&E spokesman Andrew Souvall said the company had planned to
replace the piece of the gas line mentioned in the documents with
24-inch pipe as a part of its broader proposal to upgrade
infrastructure that the commission began considering last year.
Souvall said Sunday that no one complained to the utility's call
centers of smelling gas in the San Bruno neighborhood in the week
leading up to the blast. He said the ruptured section, which was
installed in 1956, was last checked for leaks in March. The company
said later Sunday that no leaks were found. The segment farther
was checked for leaks on Friday and none was found, Souvall added.
"We take action on a daily basis to repair our equipment as needed," he
said. "PG&E takes a proactive approach toward the maintenance of
our gas lines and we're constantly monitoring our system."
In ordering the company to conduct the leak survey on its natural gas
lines, the state's Public Utilities Commission said Sunday that
PG&E must give priority to higher pressure pipelines, as well as to
lines in areas of high population density.
The order comes after Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado asked the commission to
order the utility company to conduct an integrity assessment of its
natural gas pipeline system. Maldonado is serving as acting governor
while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger travels in Asia. The commission
plans to appoint an independent expert panel to help with their
Crews on Sunday packed into a crate the 28-foot section of ruptured
natural gas pipeline blown out of the ground and hurled 100 feet in the
explosion, said Christopher Hart, vice chairman of the National
Transportation Safety Board. Investigators were to ship the
to the NTSB's metallurgy lab in Washington, D.C., for intensive
examination, he said. Also being shipped were two 10-foot
pipe removed from the crater Sunday from either side of where the
ruptured section had been.
Investigators believed they had collected all the sections needed to
reconstruct the metal pipeline but asked that anyone who found metal
fragments in the blast area contact the NTSB. The agency also wanted to
know of any instances of dead vegetation before the explosion, which
could indicate a gas leak.
Calif. gas line rupture sparks
By Jason Dearen and Julianna Barbassa, Associated Press
Updated: 11:04 a.m. on Saturday, September 11, 2010
SAN BRUNO, Calif. (AP) — Federal authorities are probing a
natural gas pipeline and how it was maintained as they investigate the
thunderous line explosion and raging inferno that devastated this
suburban San Francisco neighborhood. City leaders called for a town
hall meeting Saturday to start San Bruno's healing process.
Officials were trying to determine what led up to the blast that killed
at least four people, injured dozens of others and raised questions
about the safety of similar lines that crisscross towns across America.
"It looks like a moonscape in some areas," Fire Chief Dennis Haag said
At least 50 people were hurt, with seven suffering critical injuries in
the explosion Thursday evening that left a giant crater and laid waste
to dozens of 1960s-era homes in the hills overlooking San Francisco
Bay. Authorities had no reports of anyone still missing or unaccounted
The utility that operates the 30-inch diameter line said it was trying
to find out what caused the steel gas pipe to rupture and ignite.
Federal pipeline safety inspectors were on the scene Friday afternoon.
"It was just an amazing scene of destruction," National Transportation
Safety Board vice chairman Christopher Hart said.
He said federal investigators will analyze the pipeline's condition,
along with its maintenance history, pressure levels and the safeguards
put in place to prevent pressure from building up. Hart said the NTSB
will also look at the training and experience of the people who
operated the pipeline and screen them for alcohol and drugs.
At an evacuation center, residents anxiously awaited word on the fate
of their homes.
Others, like Freddy Tobar and his wife Nora, thought about the house
they lost. He saw flames shooting up outside his window and then
through his home. He grabbed his Chihuahua and ran outside, getting
second degree burns on his arms and the side of his face.
The couple saw the house burning to the ground on the news, and
returned Friday to find it destroyed.
"We have to start from zero again. When you start remembering it gets
too sad," Nora Tobar said.
"But the most important thing is that we're alive," she said.
Jacquelin Greig, 44, her daughter Janessa, 13, and Jessica Morales, 20,
were identified by the San Mateo County Coroner's Office as having died
in the fire. The fourth person killed hasn't been identified.
Greig lived in a house just yards from the source of the blast. In her
job with the California Public Utilities Commission, she worked to
protect consumers from soaring monthly gas bills or dangerous pipeline
expansions, co-workers said.
"This is so difficult for us because we're such a small group," said
her co-worker Pearlie Sabino. "She does a lot of cases related to
natural gas, that's the irony of it."
State Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who represents San Bruno and surrounding
cities, said he has heard multiple reports from constituents who had
alerted PG&E of gas odors in the neighborhood before the disaster.
The residents "deserve to know if PG&E used the correct procedures
in the days and weeks leading up to this disaster," Hill said. The
utility said it was checking its records for the complaints, but added
that none of its crews were at work on the line Thursday.
Compared to the tens of thousands of miles of gas pipelines across the
country, accidents are relatively rare.
In 2009, there were 163 significant accidents involving natural gas
pipelines, killing 10 people and injuring 59.
Transmission lines like the one that burst in San Bruno deliver natural
gas from its source to distribution lines, which then carry it into
neighborhoods before branching off into homes.
Over the past two decades, federal officials tallied 2,840 significant
gas pipeline accidents nationwide — including 992 in which someone was
killed or required hospitalization, according to the Pipeline and
Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Those accidents killed 323 people and injured 1,372.
Experts say the nation's 296,000 miles of onshore natural-gas lines
routinely suffer breakdowns and failures.
More than 60 percent of the lines are 40 years old or older and almost
half were installed in the 1950s and 1960s, according to a recent
analysis by the Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit advocacy group based
in Bellingham, Wash.
Most of the older pipelines lack anticorrosion coatings that are
prevalent in the industry today, said Carl Weimer, executive director
of the trust, which was set up following a 1999 explosion that killed
three people in Bellingham.
"The industry always says that if you take care of pipelines, they'll
last forever," Weimer said. "But what we see over and over again is
companies are not doing that and corrosion and other factors are
Once a high-pressure pipeline fails, he said, anything can trigger a
deadly blast. A cigarette or rocks smashing as high-pressure gas shoots
by. Even someone answering a cell phone can cause a spark, because it
is battery-powered, Weimer said.
This is not the first time a deadly explosion occurred on a PG&E
gas line. The utility has had 19 significant pipeline incidents since
2002, but there was only one fatality, according to records provided by
In 2008, the state regulators inspected a leaky PG&E pipeline in
the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova that had been repaired, and
found that the company wasn't properly training its workers to
recognize potentially dangerous leaks.
PG&E agreed to update its safety training, and a deadline was set
for Dec. 31, 2008.
On Christmas Eve, the pipeline exploded, killing a 72-year-old man and
injuring five others.
NTSB's final report on the blast concluded that PG&E used a wrong
pipe to repair the gas line two years before and that residents had
reported a gas smell before the explosion.
In response to the findings, the company said it had taken
"extraordinary measures" to ensure a blast like that wouldn't happen
Federal Investigators Recommend Ban On
Natural Gas For Pipe Purges
By DAVE ALTIMARI
9:58 AM EDT, June 28, 2010
The federal agency investigating the Kleen Energy plant explosion is
recommending that power plant owners be banned from using natural gas
during pipe purging to avoid another disaster like the one that cost
six people their lives in February...full
at Veto Session 2010
Rell vetoes energy bill, citing
content and process
Mark Pazniokas and Jacqueline Rabe
May 25, 2010
Gov. M. Jodi Rell today vetoed sweeping energy legislation passed on
the final day of the 2010 session after a late-night debate, attacking
the path the bill followed to passage as vehemently as she did the
Rell, whose administration was not consulted on the bill as it was
drafted, called the process "disrespectful to those who honestly
desired to read and deliberate the bill's provisions and unfair to the
people of Connecticut whose electric bills and taxes would surely be
The bill's Democratic sponsors, Sen. John Fonfara of Hartford and Rep.
Vicki O. Nardello of Prospect, presented the bill to colleagues in the
session's final week, setting off a massive lobbying effort. Utilities
tried to kill it, while environmentalists and consumer programs pushed
The bill would have subsidized solar power, encouraged energy
efficiency and exerted influence over a deregulated electric industry
that has given Connecticut the nation's second-highest electric rates.
The most heavily lobbied bill of year was passed 20 to 14 in the Senate
and 81 to 40 in the House. An override is not likely, as passage fell
four votes short in the Senate and 20 in the House of the necessary
But the numbers aren't deterring Fonfara, who said he plans to heavily
lobby lawmakers to switch their votes.
"We have not talked to them yet, but we certainly will at this point.
We'll see where that takes us. ... There is still the opportunity to
overcome a veto," he said.
Rell said she could not overcome her dismay with what she called the
lack of transparency.
"I believe in the legislative process. As disjointed as the legislative
process can sometimes appear, public comment and open analysis and
debate are critical to producing well-crafted, workable laws,"Rell
said. "The proponents of this bill would have been well served by
following that process."
Rell's comments angered Fonfara, calling them "totally untrue and
inaccurate. It's misleading for the governor to say that. Every portion
of this bill has had a public hearing."
Nardello said the governor's Office of Policy and Management responded
to the handful of bills that were eventually rolled into this omnibus
“If she didn’t really like the bill she should have just said so," she
said. "This bill was brought forth like any other bill."
Rell also took issue with the House taking up the bill at 3 a.m. on the
last day, giving final passage at 6 a.m. House leaders said they had no
choice, noting that Republicans had filibustered an education-reform
bill for 7 hours, pushing the energy bill debate into the early morning
"Tired legislators debating a bill as complex and important as this
under cloak of night is untenable and unacceptable," Rell said.
Rell dismissed claims from the bill's supporters that it would lower
rates. She said it was rhetoric and "eerily reminiscent" of claims by
supporters of deregulation in 1998.
Charles Rothenberger, an attorney with Connecticut Fund for the
Environment, said Rell's claims that the process was not transparent
"It did have the full benefit of legislative public hearings," he said.
"Unfortunately, opponents of the bill were able to get ahead on that
message. ... We pay the highest rates in the continental U.S. and this
[veto] ensures we will continue down that path."
The veto quickly became an issue in the gubernatorial campaign. The
endorsed Democratic candidate, Dan Malloy, quickly criticized the
actions of Rell, who is not seeking re-election.
"This is a mistake, plain and simple. At a time when Connecticut is
already facing the highest electricity costs in the country, when
families and small businesses across the state are already strained by
unprecedented economic problems, this veto makes no sense," Malloy said.
"This was more than an energy bill, it was a jobs bill," said Ned
Lamont, the Democratic challenger. "The governor's decision to veto it
was shortsighted, and it comes shortly after her gimmick-laden budget
raided the Connecticut energy conservation fund."
Christopher Phelps, program director for Environment Connecticut, a
clean energy advocacy group, called the governor’s veto “extremely
disappointing, for the ratepayers and businesses, for those who want to
create clean energy and green jobs. The bill was specifically crafted
to set a positive balance” between controlling rates, promoting
renewable energy sources and protecting the environment, he added.
Rell said that the bill was well-intentioned, but it attempted to do
too much with too little oversight and public input.
"We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. I cannot approve the
sweeping changes in this bill without fully knowing the effect they
will have on the energy market, our state's economy and ratepayer
bills," Rell said. "Further, by creating a new state agency, the
Connecticut Energy and Technology Authority, this bill increases the
size and scope of state government at a time when we are striving to
cut expenses and streamline government."
The bill also would have reorganized and renamed the Public Utilities
Control Authority as the Connecticut Energy and Technology Authority,
which would have the added responsibility of promoting new technologies
and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydro-power.
The bill also would have adopted Energy Star standards for all
televisions sold in the state, forcing energy-gobbling models from the
market. And it called for low-interest financing for homeowners to
invest in energy-efficient boilers and other improvements.
Nardello said if lawmakers decide not to override the governor's veto
this year, there's alway next year.
"We've already done all the work," she said.
Cause of Middletown blast unknown
By Lee Howard
Publication: The Day
Published 02/08/2010 12:00 AM
Updated 02/08/2010 08:19 AM
Middletown - A routine cleaning procedure preceded a huge explosion and
fire Sunday morning that destroyed a natural gas plant under
construction here, leaving five people dead and 12 injured.
One of those killed was 58-year Raymond Dobratz of Old Saybrook, who
was working as a pipefitter supervisor. He was flown by Life Star
helicopter to Hartford Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano said during a news conference at nearby
Woodrow Wilson Middle School late Sunday afternoon that as many as 200
people had been working at different points during the day at the
620-megawatt plant. The plant, which is owned by Kleen Energy Systems,
was constructed to be one of the cleanest natural gas-fired power
facilities in the world.
It was unclear how many people were at the plant at the time of the
explosion. Officials said Sunday night that no one was known to be
missing but that firefighters would continue to comb through the
destroyed building overnight in case there are any other victims.
"Something ignited the gas," said Giuliano, who felt the ground shake
in downtown Middletown during the blast, which he likened to a sonic
Residents as far away as Mystic reported that they felt or heard the
The explosion occurred as power-plant personnel tried to clean two of
the site's gas lines, said state Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden. He said
standard procedure is to reduce the number of people on site at the
time of the gas-line purge, a protocol that may have reduced the
Gaffey said workers on site most likely would have included
pipefitters, plumbers and electricians. During the week, as many as 300
or 400 workers are on site, said Gaffey, who estimated the
multimillion-dollar plant, which was scheduled for completion in the
next few months, was about 95 percent finished.
The exterior of the power plant was largely destroyed, with the blast
exposing the innards of the facility. No estimate was given for the
"What used to be siding was hanging off like strips of ribbon,"
Nearby homes, he added, exhibited earthquake-like damage, such as
crumbling walls, broken windows and cracks in the roofs. No one,
however, had to be evacuated.
Marc Fongemie, deputy chief of operations for one of the Middletown
fire departments, said the search-and-rescue operation was being
extended to a range that included the farthest spot where debris was
located. Police blocked off roads so no one could get to the blast site.
This isn't the first time a natural-gas explosion has occurred during a
Just last year in Garner, N.C., three people were killed, four others
were critically burned and 71 went to the hospital when a blast at a
Slim Jim meat processing plant owned by ConAgra Foods occurred during a
similar procedure. Another problem during a gas-purging operation
occurred in 2008 at a Hilton Hotel in San Diego, injuring 14.
Both of these purging procedures were linked to venting gas indoors
"without proper monitoring or safeguards," leading the U.S. Chemical
Safety Board to issue a safety bulletin, according to an article in
Occupational Health & Safety magazine.
Officials said it was unclear what led to Sunday's blast. A formal
investigation will begin today, Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano
told The Associated Press.
The contractor on the project was listed as O&G Industries, a
Torrington company that has been involved in many local projects,
including building several schools in Waterford.
Other subcontractors were also at the Middletown plant, according to
officials, creating initial confusion about how many people were on the
site at the time of the blast.
Guiliano stressed that the 11:19 a.m. explosion was the result of an
industrial accident, not terrorism. Officials said the names of those
killed would be released after their next of kin were notified.
The Red Cross has set up a hotline for families to get information
about victims at (860) 347-2577. Other agencies involved in the
operation included the Department of Homeland Security, Connecticut
State Police and the federal Occupational Health and Safety
Administration, as well as many fire departments and emergency medical
responders around Connecticut.
Giuliano said he knows some victims were taken to Middlesex Hospital.
Two victims were transported to Hartford Hospital.
Injuries were described as ranging from minor to potentially
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who went to the scene, activated the Emergency
Operations Center in Hartford.
"I thank the many first responders who are braving the very cold and
windy conditions," Rell said.
Rell announced a temporary no-fly zone over the site of the plant
explosion "because of the instability of the heavily damaged building."
The flight restrictions are in effect until 5:21 p.m. today.
The Kleen Energy Systems plant, located at 1349 River Road, is on a
prime piece of land on a hilltop overlooking the Connecticut River. The
fire could be seen for miles around, officials said.
Numerous residents in southeastern Connecticut reported hearing the
explosion and feeling their houses shake.
"I thought a tree fell on the garage," said Kathy Pagani of Ledyard. "I
can't believe it was so far away for me to have felt it and heard it
here in Ledyard."
Bob Walter of Colchester was in his basement doing some work at the
time and thought it was a short tremor.
"We've had them out here before," he said. "But I was shocked when I
heard that it was the accident in Middletown and thought to myself that
was one heck of an explosion."
Kleen Energy Systems is controlled by Energy Investors Funds Group,
according to a report on Bloomberg.com. The plant had a 15-year
contract to provide enough electricity to Northeast Utilities to fuel
about half a million homes, according to a summary of its project found
Algonquin Gas Transmission Co. is the gas supplier to the plant,
according to Bloomberg.
Kevin Moloney for The New York Times
The sun rises over
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.
Environmentalists are seeking to block transmission lines from this and
other public lands.
Environmentalists Sue Over Energy
Transmission Across Federal Lands
By Kate Galbraith
July 8, 2009, 2:22 pm
A coalition of environmental groups is suing federal agencies in an
effort to change the location of corridors to transmit energy across
The environmental groups — including the Sierra Club, the Natural
Resources Defense Council and the Wilderness Society, as well as
several Western environmental groups — say that the corridors, which
were designated in January by the Bush Administration, are convenient
for moving electricity generated by coal plants and other fossil fuels,
but do little to facilitate the production of renewable energy on
“These are a product of a fossil fuel past,” said Carl Zichella, the
director of Western renewables projects for the Sierra Club, in an
The complaint was filed on Tuesday in a federal district court in San
Francisco. It names as defendants several federal agencies, including
the Department of the Interior, as well as its subsidiary, the Bureau
of Land Management; the Department of Energy; and the Department of
Agriculture and its subsidiary, the Forest Service.
Those agencies, the suit charged, created a sprawling, hop-scotch
network of 6,000 miles of rights-of-way known as the ‘West-Wide Energy
Corridors,’ without considering the environmental impacts of that
designation, without analyzing any alternatives to their preferred
pathways, without considering numerous federal policies that support
renewable energy development, without ensuring the corridors’
consistency with federal and local land use plans, and without
consulting other federal agencies or western states and local
Mr. Zichella acknowledged that the Obama administration has been far
friendlier toward the environmental groups’ priorities than the Bush
administration. Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, is pushing
aggressively to develop solar power on public lands.
The lawsuit, Mr. Zichella said, was to “help prioritize one thing to
help them meet that goal.”
The environmental groups say that the corridors designated by the Bush
administration go through a number of Western treasures, such as the
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, the
Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area in California and
the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.
Mr. Zichella said that the Sierra Club was not against transmission as
a general rule, but wanted to ensure that the lines served renewable
energy, more than fossil fuels.
Also, “We want to build them in the right places to do the least
environmental harm,” he said.
Bill Advances in Senate
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 11:10 a.m. ET
June 17, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Legislation that would require greater use of
renewable energy and make it easier to build
power lines is advancing in the Senate.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 11-8 on Wednesday to
advance the bill although Democrats and Republicans -- for different
reasons -- said they had concerns about the bill and hoped to make
changes on the Senate floor.
The bill requires utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from
wind, solar and other renewable energy. It also gives the federal
government authority to locate high-voltage power lines if states fail
to act. And it would open the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas
drilling, in some areas within 10 miles of Florida's coast.
The Senate likely will take up the bill in fall.
Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s
By MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: August 26, 2008
When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to
put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get
paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines
have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down
even with a brisk wind blowing.
That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about
renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in
a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that
cannot handle the new demands.
The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting
easier, moving it to market is not.
The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years
ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing
power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and
“We need an
interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a
member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
While the United States today gets barely 1 percent of its electricity
from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure
could hit 20 percent.
Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long
distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of
the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also
contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that
would pose the same transmission problems.
The grid’s limitations are putting a damper on such projects already.
Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer of Horizon Wind Energy, the
company that operates Maple Ridge, said that in parts of Wyoming, a
turbine could make 50 percent more electricity than the identical model
built in New York or Texas.
“The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to
move that electricity from there to the load centers,” he said.
The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections
between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies
would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for
long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances
of a few hundred miles.
Transmission lines carrying power away from the Maple Ridge farm, near
Lowville, N.Y., have sometimes become so congested that the company’s
only choice is to shut down — or pay fees for the privilege of
continuing to pump power into the lines.
Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid’s limitations
but have made scant headway in solving them. They are reluctant to
trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally
exercised authority over the grid and have little incentive to push
improvements that would benefit neighboring states.
In Texas, T. Boone Pickens, the oilman building the world’s largest
wind farm, plans to tackle the grid problem by using a right of way he
is developing for water pipelines for a 250-mile transmission line from
the Panhandle to the Dallas market. He has testified in Congress that
Texas policy is especially favorable for such a project and that other
wind developers cannot be expected to match his efforts.
“If you want to do it on a national scale, where the transmission line
distances will be much longer, and utility regulations are different,
Congress must act,” he said on Capitol Hill.
Enthusiasm for wind energy is running at fever pitch these days, with
bold plans on the drawing boards, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s notion
of dotting New York City with turbines. Companies are even reviving
ideas of storing wind-generated energy using compressed air or spinning
Yet experts say that without a solution to the grid problem, effective
use of wind power on a wide scale is likely to remain a dream.
The power grid is balkanized, with about 200,000 miles of power lines
divided among 500 owners. Big transmission upgrades often involve
multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Every
addition to the grid provokes fights with property owners.
These barriers mean that electrical generation is growing four times
faster than transmission, according to federal figures.
In a 2005 energy law, Congress gave the Energy Department the authority
to step in to approve transmission if states refused to act. The
department designated two areas, one in the Middle Atlantic States and
one in the Southwest, as national priorities where it might do so; 14
United States senators then signed a letter saying the department was
being too aggressive.
Energy Department leaders say that, however understandable the local
concerns, they are getting in the way. “Modernizing the electric
infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share,”
said Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and
energy reliability, in a speech last year.
Unlike answers to many of the nation’s energy problems, improvements to
the grid would require no new technology. An Energy Department plan to
source 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind calls for a
high-voltage backbone spanning the country that would be similar to
2,100 miles of lines already operated by a company called American
The cost would be high, $60 billion or more, but in theory could be
spread across many years and tens of millions of electrical customers.
However, in most states, rules used by public service commissions to
evaluate transmission investments discourage multistate projects of
this sort. In some states with low electric rates, elected officials
fear that new lines will simply export their cheap power and drive
Without a clear way of recovering the costs and earning a profit, and
with little leadership on the issue from the federal government, no
company or organization has offered to fight the political battles
necessary to get such a transmission backbone built.
Texas and California have recently made some progress in building
transmission lines for wind power, but nationally, the problem seems
likely to get worse. Today, New York State has about 1,500 megawatts of
wind capacity. A megawatt is an instantaneous measure of power. A large
Wal-Mart draws about one megawatt. The state is planning for an
additional 8,000 megawatts of capacity.
But those turbines will need to go in remote, windy areas that are far
off the beaten path, electrically speaking, and it is not clear enough
transmission capacity will be developed. Save for two underwater
connections to Long Island, New York State has not built a major new
power line in 20 years.
A handful of states like California that have set aggressive goals for
renewable energy are being forced to deal with the issue, since the
goals cannot be met without additional power lines.
But Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a former energy
secretary under President Bill Clinton, contends that these piecemeal
efforts are not enough to tap the nation’s potential for renewable
Wind advocates say that just two of the windiest states, North Dakota
and South Dakota, could in principle generate half the nation’s
electricity from turbines. But the way the national grid is configured,
half the country would have to move to the Dakotas in order to use the
“We still have a third-world grid,” Mr. Richardson said, repeating a
comment he has made several times. “With the federal government not
investing, not setting good regulatory mechanisms, and basically taking
a back seat on everything except drilling and fossil fuels, the grid
has not been modernized, especially for wind energy.”
Building power from the ground up
By Richard Lee, Assistant Business Editor
Article Launched: 07/10/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT
When the lights go out in New York City, the power at some office
buildings will stay on because of technology supplied by a
Norwalk-based provider of gas turbines.
OfficePower Inc. in Norwalk plans to install microturbines supplied by
Capstone Turbine Corp. of Chatsworth, Calif., in office buildings at
200 Park Ave., 220 E. 42nd St. and 230 Park Ave. The two
companies have entered into a three-year national account
agreement. The installations will follow generators already in
place at 1350
Avenue of the Americas and 110 E. 59th St., providing the buildings
with electricity to augment power supplied by Consolidated Edison and
act as a backup if blackouts occur.
Another installation is scheduled at 666 5th Ave., by later this
"We install, own and operate on a long-term basis these small power
plants. They tend to be 1 to 2 megawatts, and all of the heat and
electricity is consumed by the building," said Joel Wilson, chief
executive officer of OfficePower.
The power and heat is sold to the building owner. Clients include
commercial property owners SL Green Realty Corp., Tishman Speyer
Properties and Jack Resnick & Sons Inc.
"We're in the process of discussing contracts with 10 other building
owners. Right now, we're focusing on multi-tenant office buildings in
the U.S. Most of our clients are in New York City," Wilson said, adding
that his company has development a good relationship with ConEd through
their interconnection agreements. "We have more demand than we can keep
Having a turbine has become a necessity for many buildings and their
tenants, particularly with the hottest days of summer still to come and
as the cost of electricity continues to climb.
"Building owners know there are transmission problems on the horizon,"
Reckson Associates decided in 2006 to install a turbine at its building
at 1350 Avenue of the Americas, supplied by OfficePower, as a way to
attract high-end tenants who insist that they have a dependable power
supply, said Matt Duthie, then senior vice president of Reckson, which
has since been acquired by SL Green.
"OfficePower's ability to guarantee power in most situations has helped
attract high-end hedge fund clients to a building that has been known
over the past decade as 'the men's apparel building'," he said, adding
that the natural gas-powered turbines offer environmental benefits.
The turbines typically run at 75 to 85 percent efficiency.
OfficePower is the first to introduce Capstone's C-1000 turbines to New
York City, Wilson said.
"OfficePower has a proven track record of successfully designing,
installing and operating high efficiency distributed generated
solutions in Class A office buildings," said Darren Jamison, president
and chief executive officer of Capstone Turbine, in a statement.
"OfficePower developed and implemented an integrated approach to
combined heat and power installations that make distributed generation
viable for the company and its customers. OfficePower's innovative and
cost-effective green solution is proving to be successful, as
demonstrated both by the 1350 Avenue of the America's installation and
the other buildings that have become OfficePower's customers."
The introduction of the turbines is reducing the pressure on ConEd to
deliver electricity to Manhattan, said ConEd spokesman Christ Olert.
"There is a move to take more control of energy costs, and this is a
very good way to do it," he said. "Electrical use in New York City has
grown 20 percent in the last 10 years."
Every installed C1000 Capstone microturbine is equivalent to removing
up to 700 average U.S. passenger vehicles from the road, based on
Environmental Protection Agency emissions and efficiency data for the
average passenger vehicle, according to Jamison.
credited New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for supporting
deployment of distributed generation technology.
"We are extremely pleased with our initial C60 Capstone turbine
installation at 1350 Avenue of the Americas," Wilson said. "This 720kW
installation has experienced 99.4 percent availability over the last 18
months and was a key factor in OfficePower moving forward with Capstone
on this national account agreement."
Alternative Sources May Not Be Ready To Meet The Demand:
Connecticut's Clean Energy Policy Creating Demand
By MARK PETERS | Courant Staff Writer
April 7, 2008
Electricity in Connecticut comes mostly from hulking power plants
scattered around the state, but under official policy, that's supposed
Although monthly customer bills don't show it, 5 percent of electricity
delivered by Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating this
year must be generated from renewable sources such as wind, water or
the sun. The requirement is set to go up every year until 2020, when it
reaches 20 percent.
The aggressive policy in Connecticut, combined with similar
requirements in neighboring states, is sparking an unprecedented demand
for renewable power in the region. The idea is to prod alternative
sources of electricity to spring up as all consumers pay more for the
extra benefits of clean generation.
But even with a rush of proposals and widespread political support,
there is a growing debate over whether the fledgling and disparate
alternative energy industry can meet the rising requirements. Even at
this year's level, some say it's a struggle.
The state rules call for penalties paid through consumers' electric
rates if the goals aren't met. Millions of dollars already are due.
Ultimately, Connecticut consumers could end up paying more for
electricity "without necessarily promoting new renewable generation to
displace conventional generation," according to a recent report
prepared by The Brattle Group, a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm for
UI and CL&P.
Northeast Utilities, CL&P's parent company, estimates that New
England needs to be able to generate — or import from New York and
eastern Canada — billions of kilowatt-hours of additional renewable
electricity to meet the regional requirements. Getting there would
require 2,200 wind turbines or 8.2 million solar panels by 2020, NU
The penalties could total $200 million a year within three years,
according to the Brattle Group report.
Any penalty payments would go to the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund,
which is charged with developing alternative sources of power. But the
state agency still hasn't broken ground on its first large-scale
renewable project after more than three years of work. The fund is
under investigation by the state attorney general for possible misuse
of money, and the General Assembly has taken money out of its treasury
for purposes unrelated to energy.
Renewable energy advocates are challenging Brattle's findings, saying a
flood of clean energy projects are in the pipeline. The demand created
by the ambitious state requirements make the projects — unheard of just
a few years ago — viable alternatives in an industry long dominated by
oil, coal and nuclear plants, they say.
Public and political support is strong not only because of growing
concern over global warming and U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but
also because the new energy sources promise to create "green collar"
jobs in New England.
Still, it is unclear how many of the wind turbines, biomass boilers and
fuel-cell farms will actually get built. Some projects are facing the
same local resistance as traditional power plants — from people who
don't want to live near them. Financing remains a challenge, especially
at a time of tighter credit, because of the need for upfront costs and
the risk that public policy will change.
"There is tons of stuff in concept," said Carrie Cullen Hitt, vice
president of renewable products for Constellation NewEnergy. "The
question is: Do they make it over the finish line?"
So far, Connecticut has relied heavily on clean generators — some built
a decade or more ago — that run on wood, methane from landfills and the
rush of rivers to keep up.
CL&P and UI say they're struggling to find cleanly generated
electricity in the right quantity and price to fulfill the mandates.
Reports filed last month for 2006 show that both UI and CL&P failed
to meet the 2 percent requirement. The 2007 report won't be available
until early next year.
The Brattle Group study warned that Connecticut's requirements will
increase just as similar rules take effect in Massachusetts and Rhode
Island. And although projects are being proposed at record levels,
renewable generation proposals often die, the report said.
"I think people are starting to wonder where all these new resources
are going to come from — and at what price," said Dennis Hrabchak, vice
president of corporate affairs for UI, which delivers power in the New
Haven and Bridgeport areas.
The clean energy fund has challenged Brattle's findings, along with
renewable-energy developers and environmental groups.
An analysis for the fund estimates a modest shortage in renewable
power, or maybe none at all, requiring limited penalty payments over
the next several years.
"The assumptions ... regarding renewable supply in Connecticut are not
current, accurate or well researched," the fund wrote in a filing with
state energy officials.
Under the region's electricity market system, credit certificates are
issued to renewable projects to sell as they generate electricity.
Because the credits have value, they provide added compensation to
Without them, most renewable projects couldn't compete in an
electricity market dominated by decades-old power plants.
CL&P and UI buy renewable energy credits through their energy
brokers; they do not deliver different types of electricity to
customers, since there is only one distribution system.
Utility officials, regulators and energy developers agree that failing
to meet the requirements in these early years does not necessarily mean
there wasn't enough green power. The penalties could be the same price
or cheaper than the credits.
Already, some Connecticut residents register to buy cleanly generated
electricity, voluntarily, for a slightly higher price. But those
kilowatt hours don't count toward the standards.
Developers say the market is responding to the demand being created by
the state policies. ISO New England, which operates the region's grid,
lists more than three dozen proposed renewable projects. Those who
follow the market estimate many more are in development.
The requirement that rises to 20 percent applies to so-called Class I
renewable power — wind, clean biomass, solar, tidal, fuel cell and some
hydro power. Connecticut itself has limited natural resources to
harness for those types of sources.
Research shows the state has little potential for wind power. Three
proposed plants that would run on wood are likely to be the most
Connecticut could supply. Solar is growing in popularity, but requires
a complex process of bringing together thousands of micro-projects at
homes and businesses.
The rest of New England has more potential. Cape Wind, a controversial
project for an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound, is the best known
wind project in the region, but there are others.
Essex-based Noble Environmental Power is part of the booming interest
in wind. Only 4 years old, the clean energy developer already has
massive turbines spinning in upstate New York.
It's planning 1,000 megawatts — enough electricity to power upward of a
million typical homes — in northern New England.
"We are attracted to this part of the country, and developing projects
in the region, because there are strong incentives here," said Anna
Giovinetto, vice president of public affairs for Noble.
One way Connecticut officials say they can keep up with the
requirements is by helping to get wind projects built in Maine, New
Hampshire and other New England states.
The clean energy fund is looking at ways for the utilities to reach
long-term contracts with out-of-state wind projects. That would help
developers attract loans and other financing to build, said Paul
Michaud, director of regulatory policy for the clean energy fund.
As it warns public officials about a shortage of renewable energy, NU
is also pitching itself as part of the solution — by building
high-voltage transmission lines to deliver the alternative energy to
NU has seen growth in the development of transmission lines, a
lucrative business for the utility at a time when demand for
electricity is flat. NU'S top executives have been talking with
investors and regulators about an extensive plan to build lines to
bring power from northern New England and eastern Canada — where wind
and hydroelectric generation is being developed.
The need for the new transmission lines becomes even more critical,
according to NU calculations, as regional caps on the amount of global
warming gases power plants can emit go into effect in the coming years.
Currents run deep
By Paul Boring
Sep 26 2007
Tidal energy in Puget Sound could become a reality if studies already
underway prove its economic viability and consequent negligible
The Snohomish County Public Utility District received permits from the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this spring to study seven sites
in Puget Sound for tidal energy, including Deception Pass and Admiralty
Inlet. Representatives from the PUD, as well as a researcher from
the University of Washington and an oceanographic consultant, visited
Admiralty Inlet last Wednesday afternoon to retrieve two electronic
devices that have been mounted on the bottom of Puget Sound for
approximately 30 days.
The acoustic Doppler current profilers are a type of sonar that produce
a record of water current velocities over a range of depths. Two have
been placed in Admiralty Inlet below the surface 278 feet and 213 feet,
respectively, and one at Deception Pass 131 feet underwater. The latter
was retrieved later in the afternoon when currents were optimal.
Neil Neroutsos, Snohomish PUD spokesperson, said Wednesday near the
Keystone Ferry dock that research work at the UW is helping ascertain
the viability of the revolutionary technology. ADCP is one key
component in the renewable energy research that is also providing
researchers with a better understanding of Puget Sound.
“They’re doing a lot of study of the ecosystems here in Puget Sound,”
Neroutsos said. “So, the studies we’re doing here today, acoustic
Doppler current profiling, is useful for that beyond the tidal energy
Jeff Cox with the oceanographic consulting firm Evans-Hamilton said
there are various types of turbines, each driven at different current
speeds. He had been told by experts that the turbines generally begin
rotating in currents of about one knot. Four knots should generate a
peak output. Cox said the ADCP is being used to collect
measurements for the studies. His company first traveled a specific
track line to determine where best to place the meters.
“That allows us to go across the inlet or along the inlet and get an
understanding of the variation of the current,” Cox said. “So, we can
first get an idea how this current varies across this channel and
select sites to go back and put current meters on the bottom for 30
days that will sit there and give us a much better idea of how the
current varies over time and especially the lunar cycle of a month.”
On Wednesday it was time to retrieve the meters and find out what they
had to say. Mounted in cages on the seabed, the devices are released by
firing signals down into the water. When they hit their mark, the buoy
floats to the surface with a recovery rope used to safely pull the
“We can service it and redeploy it, or bring it home, whichever we
need,” Cox said.
Operating in choppy waters made recovering the devices difficult. After
several failed attempts, the vessel sent out the signal from one mile
away, successfully triggering the release.
“I’m always happy when they come home,” Cox said after he watched the
meter pulled safely onto the boat deck.
The data will now be passed on to the university, where Brian Polagye,
a pre-doctoral research associate in the UW’s mechanical engineering
department, is one of the specialists eagerly awaiting its arrival.
“What we’ve been doing is analyzing the first round of results from the
acoustic Doppler profiling, specifically the results when we did
over-the-side measurements,” Polagye said. “Admiralty Inlet’s a big
place. We want to know where the currents are the highest, where it
makes most sense to put tidal energy in the water.”
Starting out, the only information available on currents in the area
came from historical data compiled by the National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration decades ago using much cruder methods.
Polagye said the currents have thus far proven to be stronger than
anticipated, especially near Admiralty Head. And the NOAA data has not
been the most reliable.
“We actually found stronger currents where NOAA predicted weaker ones,”
he said. “The stationary units have indicated a higher power density at
As exciting as the preliminary numbers are, the researcher was loath to
draw any conclusions, as the measurements represent a single point in
time and could be an anomaly. Cox said Tuesday that the meters
revealed a maximum current speed of 7.9 knots at Deception Pass with an
average speed of 3.5 knots. At Admiralty Inlet the maximum speed was
less, 5.8 knots with an average speed of 2 knots.
The seven sites combined could provide as much as 100 average-megawatts
of energy, or enough power for about 60,000 homes. The projected
megawatt production was a conservative estimate based on the NOAA data.
New studies will undoubtedly modify the numbers.
“It’s looking very good,” Polagye said. “We will be able to make
predictions as to the annual power density at the site.”
The research associate said Deception Pass has the distinction of
offering the strongest currents. However, a site’s viability is based
on the overall amount of energy potential, in addition to current
“Deception Pass has by far the strongest currents in Puget Sound,”
Polagye said. “But it is much smaller.”
The FERC permits do not authorize construction, nor has the PUD made
any commitment to construct tidal facilities. Rather, the permits allow
the utility to apply for construction permits in the future. The PUD
will only consider moving forward on a tidal project once studies have
confirmed both the technical and economic viability, and the utility
district is convinced that the project can be executed in an
environmentally responsible manner.
The series of studies is being funded in part by a $220,000 grant from
the Bonneville Power Association. All of the data will be crucial
if the PUD moves into the pilot phase, which would happen at the end of
the three-year studies. Snohomish County is one of the fastest
growing counties in the region, Neroutsos said.
“We’re adding about 10,000 new customer connections each year, every
year,” he said. “That’s about the size of a town a little smaller than
Edmonds every year. We want to meet as much of that growth as possible
through renewable energy like we’re looking at today.”
The PUD is exploring other forms of energy besides tidal power. It is
considering acquiring additional bio-mass and has already purchased a
portion of a wind energy project in Eastern Washington that will start
“We’re continuing to promote small-scale solar installations as well,”
Court says Burton
can challenge Millstone
By Patricia Daddona
Published on 5/21/2009
The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that an anti-nuclear activist
fighting to shut down Millstone Power Station has the right to
challenge a state-run permit-renewal process. In a two-year-old
brought by Nancy Burton of Redding Ridge and Mystic against the state
Department of Environmental Protection's commissioner, Gina McCarthy,
and Millstone owner Dominion, a trial court originally found that
Burton lacked standing to sue. Burton is the leader of the Connecticut
Coalition Against Millstone.
But on Wednesday, the high court released a legal opinion finding the
trial court erred and Burton has a right to challenge the adequacy of a
state water-discharge permit proceeding, now under way, to protect the
public, the environment and marine life.
”We conclude that the plaintiff's complaint adequately sets forth facts
to support an inference that unreasonable pollution, impairment or
destruction of a natural resource will probably result from Millstone's
operation,” the ruling stated. “The plaintiff … has standing to raise
her claim ....”
In her lawsuit, Burton has also alleged the DEP hearing officer is
biased and that the DEP has prejudged the case. It is now up to
trial court to determine if the permit-renewal process is insufficient.
If so, the court has the power to halt the proceedings “and craft
orders to ensure that those rights are adequately protected,” the
Supreme Court stated.
”This is GREAT NEWS for the community surrounded by Millstone,” Burton
said in an e-mail. “It is GREAT NEWS for the fish. And it is GREAT NEWS
for all who believe that conscientious citizen participation can make a
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose office represented the DEP,
said his staff would review claims Burton makes in Superior Court “if
and when the plaintiff makes them.”
Amey Marrella, deputy commissioner of the DEP, defended Dominion's and
the agency's efforts to revise the Millstone permit. Millstone
discharges heated and contaminated water into Long Island Sound,
Niantic Bay and Jordan Cove. The reactors also trap and kill marine
life at intakes when they suck millions of gallons of water into the
plants for cooling purposes.
Burton alleges harm that she says has been exacerbated by the DEP's
emergency authorization of the permit now under review. Since 1997,
Millstone's two reactors have been operating without a revised permit.
Marrella said Dominion, which has since reapplied for the permit, is
already taking steps to better protect aquatic life and embark on a
study of alternative cooling methods. Jim Norvelle, spokesman for
Dominion, said the company is confident the Superior Court would find
no merit to Burton's claims.
Gets More Time For Millstone
Decision; State gets 3 weeks to assess court ruling's impact on
power plant permit
By Patricia Daddona
Published on 8/21/2007
The state Department of Environmental Protection will take
three more weeks to review a landmark court case that could lead the
agency to revise its proposed renewal of a water discharge permit for
the Millstone nuclear complex in Waterford.
A report was due Monday after two months of review, but a hearing
officer has extended the deadline to Sept. 10 so the state agency can
“assess complex issues involved and make a final determination on how
to best proceed,” spokesman Dennis Schain said.
The DEP is in the middle of a pending application for permit renewal,
but is now trying to figure out if it should revise its proposed permit
for the power plant, based on new information yielded in the court
ruling, Riverkeeper v. Environmental Protection Agency.
The federal ruling could alter the way 539 power plants, including
nuclear reactors, avoid killing fish while cooling their energy
In the court case, decided in January, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals ordered the EPA to clarify or change its laws involving whether
power plants must stop fish kills by using “the best technology
available.” The step, depending on how it is implemented, could require
an expensive technological overhaul at many plants, including Millstone.
At Millstone, the reactors take in water from Long Island Sound to cool
steam used to generate electricity. The water flows through a grate,
which traps fish and other sea creatures alive and returns them to the
Sound by way of a vertical conveyor belt. The proposed permit, which
DEP had tentatively approved, incorporates some new rules to reduce the
death of winter flounder larvae, but it is unclear whether the DEP's
new stricter requirements would be enough to comply with the new
Dominion, the owner of Millstone, which has two operating reactors and
one that is shut down, has been operating with emergency authorization
of its permit after it expired in 1997.
A public hearing is expected to follow DEP's decision on whether to
revise its proposed permit.
move to scrap competition for electric customers
By Ted Mann
Published on 4/30/2009
Hartford - A key principle in the decade of reform and deregulation in
Connecticut's energy markets goes as follows: If residential electric
customers can choose among competitive retailers in buying their power,
they'll benefit from the bidding war and ultimately pay lower
But opponents of deregulation say the promise hasn't panned out.
Fewer than 10 percent of residential customers have left traditional
“standard service” offered by utilities for electric contracts
purchased in the competitive market.
And in the meantime, the utilities who provide that standard service
have built in a “risk premium,” critics say - raising their rates in
order to protect themselves against the chance that some of their
customers will flee the existing system for the competitive markets.
On Wednesday, the state House of Representatives moved to close off the
competitive option for residential electric customers and those using
100 kilowatts or less per month, effectively rolling back that segment
of Connecticut's deregulation experiment.
The move, supporters say, will lower costs by as much as 5 percent on
those who still pay utilities for standard service. And it will mean
that those who stayed with utility electricity sellers do not
“subsidize” competition for a relative handful of power customers.
Since retail competition was initiated, only about 8 percent of
residential customers have left traditional utilities to negotiate
their own contracts, said Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, co-chair of
the Energy and Technology Committee, with the vast majority remaining
in standard service - but also paying the costs built into those
standard service rates to cover the potential departure of customers
into the competitive market.
”This isn't real competition,” Nardello said. “Why should an entire
group of people pay more for a few people that have choice?”
The bill would end retail choice in electricity service for those
customers with a maximum demand of 100 kilowatts or less, including all
residential customers who are not yet participating in the competitive
It also includes language aimed at allowing major electricity users to
sidestep energy re-sellers and negotiate multiyear contracts directly
with utilities for power, adding a new level of competition for energy
retailers and, supporters say, lowering power costs.
Supporters of the move have assembled a broad coalition, including
House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, who helped resurrect the
measure after it was killed in committee, and usually divergent groups
including the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, the Connecticut
Industrial Energy Consumers, the Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut,
the AARP and labor groups.
The state's electricity system is “at the edge of a precipice,” said
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, another supporter of the bill.
“Deregulation has been a massive failure. Retail competition has been a
farce. Our present system is a costly, baffling bust.”
The bill passed by a vote of 104-38, but it faces a more difficult test
in the Senate, where Nardello's co-chair, Sen. John Fonfara,
D-Hartford, is expected to try to block the bill from coming to a vote.
Fonfara has already blocked the measure once this session, refusing to
sign off on a motion to vote it out of the committee. It was
resurrected Wednesday as an amendment with the blessing of Donovan, the
speaker of the House.
”This effectively will be a rate hike on thousands of residential
customers and small businesses, many of whom are struggling to stay in
business,” Fonfara said Wednesday evening. “This is not some
philosophical exercise. This is reality for people. It could mean some
of those businesses closing their doors.”
call the measure wrong-headed and likely to increase costs on
customers, and point to years of high electricity prices under the
utilities' monopoly as proof that the reforms of the current proposal
”If they pass this bill, it will make prices go up,” said Chris
Kallaher, the director of governmental and regulatory affairs for
Direct Energy, which buys and sells electricity in deregulated markets
around the country, including Connecticut's. “There is absolutely no
question about it. They want to hand the system over to the same people
that gave Connecticut ratepayers billions of dollars of stranded costs,
and the highest prices in history adjusted for inflation.”
In a statement, the energy retailer ConEdison Solutions estimated that
more than 135,000 customers in the state receive power through some
form of competitive supplier and enjoy lower costs than those remaining
on standard service.
Not all agree.
Purchasing power on the competitive market makes more sense for large
consumers of power, like manufacturers and major commercial users, but
little sense for individual customers unused to negotiating long-term
power contracts, said state Consumer Counsel Mary Healey, whose
nonpartisan office represents the interests of ratepayers. Healey
endorsed the legislation.
”They're sophisticated” in their decisions on power contracts, Healey
said of large-scale customers. “They have energy managers and they know
how to buy and sell in the power market. But Mom and Dad don't.”
New power company enters market
By Cara Baruzzi, New Haven Register Business Editor
Posted on Thu, Dec 6, 2007
Connecticut has another new power player, with a New Milford company
entering the deregulated electricity market as a competitive supplier.
Public Power & Utility Inc., recently licensed by the state
Department of Public Utility Control, is marketing to residential and
commercial customers statewide who are served by either Connecticut
Light & Power Co. or United Illuminating Co.
Owner David Pearsall said the company has 19 employees at its New
Milford headquarters, and plans to open offices in New Haven, Waterbury
and Danbury next month.
“Our goal is to do what deregulation was created for, and that’s to
lower our customers’ electric bills,” said Pearsall. “We’re grateful to
be able to provide this service to customers throughout the state.”
A longtime electrician, Pearsall said he decided two years ago that he
wanted to start a power company and has since been working with various
advisors and industry experts to bring it to fruition. Public
Power & Utility is selling power for a generation charge of about
10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Pearsall expects to lower the rate in
February to 9.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. By comparison, UI
officials last week asked state regulators to approve a generation
charge of 12.4 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first half of 2008.
Customers who choose Public Power & Utility are not locked into a
contract and may enroll in or cancel the service at any time, Pearsall
The company’s charges apply only to the generation portion of
customers’ bills. The business only supplies power; it does not
distribute it. Generation charges comprise the majority of customers’
bills, but are separate from distribution charges.
Customers who choose Public Power & Utility as their supplier will
still have their electricity distributed by either UI or CL&P and,
therefore, will be subject to their respective distribution rate
charges. Customers will continue to receive their billing statements
from CL&P or UI, but Public Power & Utility will be listed as
Almost 10 years ago, state lawmakers deregulated Connecticut’s
electricity market, forcing UI and CL&P to sell off their
generation operations and focus solely on distribution. Public
Power & Utility is the latest in a string of competitive suppliers
to enter the state under deregulation.
Others licensed to solicit residential customers in Connecticut are
Pennsylvania-based Community Energy, Houston-based Direct Energy,
Stamford-based MXEnergy and Virginia-based Sterling Planet, according
to DPUC records.
DPUC spokeswoman Berly Lyons said Public Power & Utility were
licensed by regulators in October.
Customers can sign up for the company’s service online at www.pp-u.com
or by calling (888) 354-4415.
New Players Enter
Power Market; Competition Ought To Mean Price Cuts, But All Competitors
Rely On One Supplier
By MARK PETERS | Courant Staff Writer
November 13, 2007
Connecticut households now have two new choices of companies that
supply electricity, expanding a competitive market that has struggled
to develop in the 10 years since the state deregulated the power
Direct Energy announced Monday it will begin selling electricity to an
estimated 1.4 million residential customers of Connecticut Light &
Power and United Illuminating.
Its entry into the market comes two weeks after ConEdison Solutions,
another national supplier, started mass marketing to the same customers.
"Once customers understand and have the benefit of realizing they have
choice, they will act on that," said Mike Beck, vice president and
general manager for Direct Energy.
Landmark legislation passed in 1998 deregulated electric generation in
Connecticut and allowed customers to choose among power suppliers. The
delivery of electricity for most households in the state a service
provided by CL&P remained a regulated monopoly without choice.
Direct Energy and ConEdison Solutions supply the actual electricity
paid for through the generation service charge on a consumer electric
bill. That item makes up more than 60 percent of a monthly bill.
Changing to a different supplier doesn't affect the remainder of the
bill, which consists of CL&P's delivery rate and federal and state
charges. Customers who sign up with Direct Energy or ConEdison
Solutions by phone or through the Internet will continue to receive a
single monthly electric bill sent out by CL&P.
Both companies offer prices slightly below what customers pay for
generation through the "standard service" price CL&P is required to
offer by law.
Direct Energy says its offer will save a CL&P residential customer
using 700 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month $4.24 off the total
The ConEdison offer would save the same customer $2.77 a month.
ConEdison has a lower offer in UI territory, which is the New Haven and
Bridgeport areas, compared to Direct Energy.
Both suppliers see their arrival in the Connecticut market as a leap
forward for competitive choice. The only option for CL&P's
residential customers besides the "standard service" offer for
generation has been Levco Energy based in Norwalk.
Filings with the state Department of Public Utility Control show that
Levco has 59,000 residential customers in Connecticut. A Levco official
said the company doesn't have a current offer, but plans to begin
signing up new customers again next month when it releases new prices.
Connecticut could be a fertile market for residential choice because of
the high price of electricity and recent state regulatory changes that
make it easier to market to customers. One of the major changes
requires the utilities to spell out the competitive prices for
generation service when a customer calls to start a new account. The
law also requires information on suppliers to be included in bills sent
But what, exactly, more choices in electricity suppliers will bring to
consumers is subject to debate. Since Direct Energy and ConEdison
Solutions buy their electricity from the same power plant owners as the
CL&P, consumers aren't likely to see competition put a noticeable
dent in prices, said Jerrold Oppenheim, a lawyer and energy consultant
with Gloucester, Mass.-based Democracy and Regulation.
"They are dipping their ladle in same market as everyone else," he said.
But officials for Direct Energy said consumers have to look past the
rate. The company plans to sell services to reduce overall energy
consumption by homeowners to produce additional monthly savings. An
example: The first 5,000 customers who sign up in Connecticut with the
company will receive four free compact fluorescent bulbs.
A Power Struggle Over The Future Of
By Ted Mann
Published on 6/3/2007
The Speaker of the State House of Representatives stood in a hotel
ballroom in New London last December, and confidently announced that
his chamber could pass a bill to address this state's rising energy
costs before January was out.
“The main thing is, we can do more instead of being a bunch of
victims,” Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford said at the time, one of
many predictions that the House could pass an energy bill within 30
days of convening this year's legislative session. “The question is,
'How can we be proactive and turn this situation into a positive?' We
need to be leaders and save some money for the taxpayers.”
Actually getting a bill passed didn't prove to be so easy.
The co-chairmen of the legislature's Energy & Technology Committee,
Rep. Steve Fontana, D-North Haven, and Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford,
along with allies on either side, remained mired in a stalemate for
months on two divergent reform proposals.
Those in the Fonfara camp sought to recapture the stability of the old,
regulated rate system, with new limits on the profits that generators
could take home. Fontana's plan would leave deregulation largely in
place, while expanding consumers' ability to manage their electricity
On Friday, the impasse was broken, though the hard feelings remain.
Amann and his counterpart in the Senate, President Pro Tem Donald E.
Williams, D-Brooklyn, stepped in and did what the co-chairs could not
do — broker a deal. Passed by the legislature, it now heads to the
The deal largely favored the Senate version and led to warnings that
Connecticut's approach to the energy market continues to favor powerful
energy interests rather than the consumer.
Both the AARP, representing retired people, and the pro-consumer
organization, the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG), oppose the
bill, contending it will enrich energy consultants, technology
companies, and investment firms that market energy, while doing little
Fonfara, however, said the new law will finally provide consumers the
tools they need to make the deregulated market really work.
The philosophical dispute between the House and Senate proposals is a
familiar one to analysts who have followed the fitful efforts of states
to manage their power markets — first in the wave of deregulation or
restructuring laws passed in the late 1990s, and then in subsequent
efforts to adapt to the changes, and higher electric rates, resulting
from those first-wave laws.
For some, the buyers' remorse of deregulation — the preferred term is
“restructuring” of electricity markets — was immediate, said Kate
Marks, the energy program manager at the National Conference of State
Legislatures in Denver.
“Once some states deregulated, they decided to actually turn back
clocks and re-regulate, and that was before they even allowed utilities
to sell off generating assets,” Marks said.
But among others, the impulse has been to forge ahead with the promise
that underlies deregulatory supply and demand laws, including the one
passed in Connecticut in 1998. It is the hope that the ability of
consumers large and small to pick and choose where they buy
electricity, as they would any other commodity, will lead both to more
efficient procurement of power and more stable and affordable prices.
“There's the one side who's saying lets move forward, we've already
decided to restructure so let's try to make best of it,” Marks said.
“And then there's the other side that says absolutely not, this is not
going to work.”
Many in the House saw some partial re-establishment of regulation as
the only effective method of controlling and flattening the inexorable
rise of electricity rates. The House proposal had focused on
establishing what it's backers call cost-of-service generation,
permitting the state's two utilities — Connecticut Light & Power
and United Illuminating — to reenter the generation market, but only
under a pricing scheme that would limit them to reasonable profits tied
to the cost of generating power.
To bust their monopolies, and generate competition, the two utility
giants were required under the 1998 restructuring law to sell off all
their power plants. Now their sole job is to acquire and distribute
The goal of letting them back in the generation business was to ensure
greater stability in electricity pricing by allowing these utilities to
compete with the current field of power plant operators to generate
power at the lowest cost, all under the watchful eye of the Department
of Public Utility Control.
Sticking with deregulation
But Fonfara, Williams and the Senate — along with key allies in the
House — instead embraced the deregulatory framework that the state
first introduced in 1998, encouraging state power consumers, from big
business to individual households, to more aggressively manage their
own electricity usage in order to lower their bills.
The Senate plan that formed the basis of the compromise bill directs
the state's existing investments in conservation initiatives toward a
new niche industry — so-called “energy efficiency partner” companies
that would help private companies, individuals or municipalities reduce
their energy demand during the peak hours when electricity is both most
expensive and most polluting to produce.
Electric companies, in turn, would be required to install new “smart”
meters capable of measuring real-time shifts in the cost of energy,
offering time-of-use rates to all customers who want them, which will
allow charging lower rates at night and at other hours when the cost of
generation is lowest.
“Right now in Connecticut, suppliers have the upper hand,” Fonfara said
in a recent interview, on a day when rising temperatures pushed air
conditioning usage, and energy costs, to an early summer peak. “Demand
is just continuing to grow ... and it's growing at the most expensive
Because electricity cannot be stored on a large scale, the system has
to be designed to meet peak demands. Large power plants cannot be
brought up and down as demand grows and shrinks. So much of the energy
generated is never used; it is just out there to meet the peak load
By encouraging consumers to use more energy during non-peak periods,
peak demands will lower and so to, theoretically, would overall costs.
Focused on peak demand
Since an effort to pass an energy reform bill along the lines of the
current House proposal collapsed last year, Fonfara has become an
ardent believer in directing efficiency investments to the peak hours —
particularly the hot early afternoons of summer — where demand is high
That solution he says would be a better use of the roughly $90 million
in ratepayer money currently invested in conservation, and ultimately
more likely to bring the costs of electricity down for both generating
companies and consumers.
“Spending $60 million to $90 million on conservation initiatives that
didn't target the most expensive time (of day), that's like going into
the hospital with a heart problem and they're checking your whole body
rather than focusing on your heart,” Fonfara says.
“That's what we're doing with our conservation programs.”
Among the new technologies the senator envisions are wirelessly
controlled meters that allow customers to remotely control their power
usage, and ice-storage systems, which freeze water at night when power
is cheapest, then use fans to circulate the ice-cooled air during
daytime, significantly lowering power usage compared to standard air
The widespread distribution of advanced meters, as well as a
ratepayer-funded public relations effort to encourage consumers to
manage their electricity usage, would give consumers “choices
not just on who delivers them the power, but when we use that power,”
But backers of the House bill, including some advocacy groups like the
CCAG and state Consumer Counsel Mary J. Healey, fear it is a naïve
The companies who would step in to manage power demand, sell new power
meters, and install other technologies, would profit from ratepayer
investments, they say, and electricity companies could see their costs
go down as peak demand decreases. But those advocates don't agree that
such decreasing demand will translate into a system-wide drop in prices
And, they say, the costs of implementing some of the high-tech changes
would be paid for by those who cannot use them because their incomes or
living situations don't allow them to be as flexible in their decisions
about when to use electricity.
Critic say the Senate version approved by the legislature would deploy
a complicated system of retail choices, when constituents really wanted
something far simpler — one low, state-regulated price for power.
But Fonfara rejects that argument, and offers the analogy of the cell
phone, another service that is cheaper to use at hours when demand on
the system is lowest.
“If a teenager can figure out when to use the cell phone, why can't an
adult who's paying the bill figure out when they don't want to put on
the dishwasher or when they're going to delay their ironing 'til the
awarded 'green' funds for renovations
December 12, 2006
WESTON — The
town of Weston was awarded more than $200,000 by Connecticut Light
& Power for the construction of several energy-efficient buildings.
partnered with the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, or CEEF, to
establish incentives, such as grants and product rebates, to encourage
residents and businesses to use energy more efficiently.
awarded approximately $211,179 and is one of two municipalities in
southwestern Fairfield County that received an energy conservation
incentive for school building projects.
CL&P spokesman, said Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk received
a $215,000 check in October.
Weston officials embarked upon an $80 million school construction and
renovation project of the high school and intermediate school, building
officials contacted CL&P to help them design energy conscious
facilities, said First Selectman Woody Bliss.
"We knew about
the grants that were out there, but we didn't know how much they were,"
said Bliss. "So we worked with them to make sure we were in compliance."
engaged in energy-efficient measures such as the use of high efficiency
rooftop air conditioning equipment, carbon dioxide controls, air-cooled
chillers and various lighting controls.
CL&P and the
Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund anticipates the town will save
approximately $135,000 annually and $2.4 million over the expected
lifetime of the improvements.
Bliss said the
improvements are expected to last between 25 and 50 years.
renovation and expansion projects give Weston students access to
world-class learning facilities that operate efficiently and cost
effectively," said Bliss. "By saving money on our annual energy costs
Weston can devote its financial resources to other programs and
will go toward the school building project if needed, Bliss said, or
the money will be placed in the town's general fund.
participation in the energy conservation program "was a very smart
move," Gross said. "It shows that they understand the value of doing
work of this nature and they are well aware of what it takes to help
save energy cost and to become more energy efficient."
CL&P director of customer solutions, said, "This is another example
of how our municipal customers can benefit from the CEEF programs."
African Huts Far From the Grid
With Renewable Power
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
December 24, 2010
KIPTUSURI, Kenya — For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for
electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a
lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in
the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.
Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far
from Kenya’s electric grid.
Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the
three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There,
she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30
cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it
behind for three full days before returning.
That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some
animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80.
Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel
provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright
overhead lights with switches.
“My main motivation was the phone, but this has changed so many other
things,” Ms. Ruto said on a recent evening as she relaxed on a bench in
the mud-walled shack she shares with her husband and six children.
As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more
efficient, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people
who live far from slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in
developing countries. Although dwarfed by the big renewable energy
projects that many industrialized countries are embracing to rein in
greenhouse gas emissions, these tiny systems are playing an epic,
Since Ms. Ruto hooked up the system, her teenagers’ grades have
improved because they have light for studying. The toddlers no longer
risk burns from the smoky kerosene lamp. And each month, she saves $15
in kerosene and battery costs — and the $20 she used to spend on travel.
In fact, neighbors now pay her 20 cents to charge their phones,
although that business may soon evaporate: 63 families in Kiptusuri
have recently installed their own solar power systems.
“You leapfrog over the need for fixed lines,” said Adam Kendall, head
of the sub-Saharan Africa power practice for McKinsey & Company,
the global consulting firm. “Renewable energy becomes more and more
important in less and less developed markets.”
The United Nations estimates that 1.5 billion people across the globe
still live without electricity, including 85 percent of Kenyans, and
that three billion still cook and heat with primitive fuels like wood
There is no reliable data on the spread of off-grid renewable energy on
a small scale, in part because the projects are often installed by
individuals or tiny nongovernmental organizations.
But Dana Younger, senior renewable energy adviser at the International
Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private lending arm, said
there was no question that the trend was accelerating. “It’s a
phenomenon that’s sweeping the world; a huge number of these systems
are being installed,” Mr. Younger said.
With the advent of cheap solar panels and high-efficiency LED lights,
which can light a room with just 4 watts of power instead of 60, these
small solar systems now deliver useful electricity at a price that even
the poor can afford, he noted. “You’re seeing herders in Inner Mongolia
with solar cells on top of their yurts,” Mr. Younger said.
In Africa, nascent markets for the systems have sprung up in Ethiopia,
Uganda, Malawi and Ghana as well as in Kenya, said Francis Hillman, an
energy entrepreneur who recently shifted his Eritrea-based business,
Phaesun Asmara, from large solar projects financed by nongovernmental
organizations to a greater emphasis on tiny rooftop systems.
In addition to these small solar projects, renewable energy
technologies designed for the poor include simple subterranean biogas
chambers that make fuel and electricity from the manure of a few cows,
and “mini” hydroelectric dams that can harness the power of a local
river for an entire village.
Yet while these off-grid systems have proved their worth, the lack of
an effective distribution network or a reliable way of financing the
start-up costs has prevented them from becoming more widespread.
“The big problem for us now is there is no business model yet,” said
John Maina, executive coordinator of Sustainable Community Development
Services, or Scode, a nongovernmental organization based in Nakuru,
Kenya, that is devoted to bringing power to rural areas.
Just a few years ago, Mr. Maina said, “solar lights” were merely basic
lanterns, dim and unreliable.
“Finally, these products exist, people are asking for them and are
willing to pay,” he said. “But we can’t get supply.” He said small
African organizations like his do not have the purchasing power or
connections to place bulk orders themselves from distant manufacturers,
forcing them to scramble for items each time a shipment happens to come
into the country.
Part of the problem is that the new systems buck the traditional mold,
in which power is generated by a very small number of huge
government-owned companies that gradually extend the grid into rural
areas. Investors are reluctant to pour money into products that serve a
dispersed market of poor rural consumers because they see the risk as
“There are many small islands of success, but they need to go to
scale,” said Minoru Takada, chief of the United Nations Development
Program’s sustainable energy program. “Off-grid is the answer for the
poor. But people who control funding need to see this as a viable
Even United Nations programs and United States government funds that
promote climate-friendly energy in developing countries hew to large
projects like giant wind farms or industrial-scale solar plants that
feed into the grid. A $300 million solar project is much easier to
finance and monitor than 10 million home-scale solar systems in mud
huts spread across a continent.
As a result, money does not flow to the poorest areas. Of the $162
billion invested in renewable energy last year, according to the United
Nations, experts estimate that $44 billion was spent in China, India
and Brazil collectively, and $7.5 billion in the many poorer countries.
Only 6 to 7 percent of solar panels are manufactured to produce
electricity that does not feed into the grid; that includes systems
like Ms. Ruto’s and solar panels that light American parking lots and
Still, some new models are emerging. Husk Power Systems, a young
company supported by a mix of private investment and nonprofit funds,
has built 60 village power plants in rural India that make electricity
from rice husks for 250 hamlets since 2007.
In Nepal and Indonesia, the United Nations Development Program has
helped finance the construction of very small hydroelectric plants that
have brought electricity to remote mountain communities. Morocco
provides subsidized solar home systems at a cost of $100 each to remote
rural areas where expanding the national grid is not cost-effective.
What has most surprised some experts in the field is the recent
emergence of a true market in Africa for home-scale renewable energy
and for appliances that consume less energy. As the cost of reliable
equipment decreases, families have proved ever more willing to buy it
by selling a goat or borrowing money from a relative overseas, for
The explosion of cellphone use in rural Africa has been an enormous
motivating factor. Because rural regions of many African countries lack
banks, the cellphone has been embraced as a tool for commercial
transactions as well as personal communications, adding an incentive to
electrify for the sake of recharging.
M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile phone money transfer service, handles an
annual cash flow equivalent to more than 10 percent of the country’s
gross domestic product, most in tiny transactions that rarely exceed
The cheap renewable energy systems also allow the rural poor to save
money on candles, charcoal, batteries, wood and kerosene. “So there is
an ability to pay and a willingness to pay,” said Mr. Younger of the
International Finance Corporation.
In another Kenyan village, Lochorai, Alice Wangui, 45, and Agnes
Mwaforo, 35, formerly subsistence farmers, now operate a booming
business selling and installing energy-efficient wood-burning cooking
stoves made of clay and metal for a cost of $5. Wearing matching bright
orange tops and skirts, they walk down rutted dirt paths with
cellphones ever at their ears, edging past goats and dogs to visit
customers and to calm those on the waiting list.
Hunched over her new stove as she stirred a stew of potatoes and beans,
Naomi Muriuki, 58, volunteered that the appliance had more than halved
her use of firewood. Wood has become harder to find and expensive to
buy as the government tries to limit deforestation, she added.
In Tumsifu, a slightly more prosperous village of dairy farmers,
Virginia Wairimu, 35, is benefiting from an underground tank in which
the manure from her three cows is converted to biogas, which is then
pumped through a rubber tube to a gas burner.
“I can just get up and make breakfast," Ms. Wairimu said. The system
was financed with a $400 loan from a demonstration project that has
In Kiptusuri, the Firefly LED system purchased by Ms. Ruto is this
year’s must-have item. The smallest one, which costs $12, consists of a
solar panel that can be placed in a window or on a roof and is
connected to a desk lamp and a phone charger. Slightly larger units can
run radios and black-and-white television sets.
Of course, such systems cannot compare with a grid connection in the
industrialized world. A week of rain can mean no lights. And items like
refrigerators need more, and more consistent, power than a panel
Still, in Kenya, even grid-based electricity is intermittent and
expensive: families must pay more than $350 just to have their homes
“With this system, you get a real light for what you spend on kerosene
in a few months,” said Mr. Maina, of Sustainable Community Development
Services. “When you can light your home and charge your phone, that is
Off The Grid; More and more people are doing an end-run around
the power companies
By Joseph B. Frazier , Associated Press Writer
Published on 5/20/2007
Lake Billy Chinook, Ore. -- Before power lines, homesteaders had no
choice. They lit their lanterns, stoked their fires and packed away
winter ice against sizzling summers.
Owners of about 250 homes in the Three Rivers community near this
central Oregon lake are far from homesteading or camping out. But they
are among a growing number of Americans who shun power lines, choosing
to live “off the grid,” without commercial power.
Everyone in Three Rivers gets most of their power from dark solar
panels on their rooftops or on nearby freestanding structures
positioned to more efficiently capture the sun. Some supplement it with
energy generated by windmills.
Solar power easily handles their computers, lights, large-screen
televisions, microwave ovens, refrigerator-freezers and more.
“Ninety percent of the people here, if (outside) power were offered to
them, they'd turn it down,” said Gary Sweet, a semi-retired insurance
agent who moved to the high desert community in Central Oregon a couple
of years ago.
Off-the-grid living is edging into the American mainstream. It isn't
there yet, but about 180,000 homes, mostly in the West, operate on it.
National demand is soaring and the off-the-grid movement is yet to be
felt in a significant way by the power industry, said Jim Owen of the
Edison Energy Institute in Washington, D.C. In the short term at least,
he said, “I can't imagine any appreciable impact on the system.”
Nonetheless, the number of people going off the grid
increases by about a third each year, said Richard Perez, who publishes
Home Power magazine, dedicated to the topic, and Lori Ryker, who has
written two books on the subject.
Much of the growth is in California. Off-the-grid living is also
growing in Texas, New Jersey and Wisconsin.
“It pretty much tracks where the best rebates are” for the cost of the
equipment, said Connie Said of Home Power. She said 80 percent of the
magazine's subscriptions are in California.
It's occurring mostly in the West because of people moving into remote
areas that are beyond the reach of commercial power, because of ample
sun and environmental conscientiousness, and possibly because of
Westerners' traditional independent streak.
Residents in the decidedly upscale, gated, Three Rivers community could
easily afford the $300,000 the power company said it would cost to
extend its lines three miles or so to their property 10 years ago.
But they've decided to stay off the grid.
“With power lines come streetlights, and there go your stars at night,”
said Gary Sweet. “And there are no power outages here.”
Off-the-grid residents have a guaranteed power supply at a time when
the emphasis on “clean” energy is on the rise. Solar energy uses no
resources to speak of, emits no pollution and is immune to energy price
Still, living off the grid isn't cheap.
High demand for solar panels and improved technology has kept the price
up, and homeowners in Three Rivers say an advanced solar energy system
can cost $25,000 for the panels, batteries, inverter and other
equipment. Some companies offer cheaper systems, and the federal
government and most states offer tax credits.
Savings over commercial power costs depend on the investment and
durability of the system and local energy prices.
Don Bliss, of Three Rivers, has a windmill to supplement his solar
panels when the sun isn't shining but said it couldn't do the job alone.
Residents with wells need generators for the pumps that fill their
cisterns, and propane powers high-demand appliances such as stoves.
Beyond that, the sun does the job.
Silent and simple, with no moving parts, solar panels convert sunlight
to DC energy, send it through inverters that change it to AC and store
it in batteries that can supply the 110-volt needs of a home for three
or four days. The panels last about 25 years, the banks of batteries
about 10. If the batteries run low during cloudy periods, generators
“We went from Feb. 11 to Sept. 15 (in 2006) and the generator never
ran. All solar,” said Sweet.
With six- and seven-figure homes, residents of Three Rivers share
nothing with the homesteaders of the past.
Richard Perez might have come closer.
He headed for the remote solitude of southernmost Oregon's Siskiyou
Mountains in 1970 and was told it would cost $270,000 — then — to
extend commercial power to his site.
“We built with a hand saw and it was seven years before we had
electricity, 10 before we had appreciable solar power in here,” said
“We started with a generator and gradually added solar. We rarely use
the generator except during extended cloudy periods,” said Perez. “I'd
rather eat a bug than burn gas.”
“When we need to use electricity we don't hesitate,” said Perez, adding
that visitors often don't know he is “off the grid” unless he tells
From 80 to 85 percent of off-the-grid homes rely on solar power because
it is the most dependably available and reliable in most areas, said
Perez. And with no moving parts, it is easier to maintain.
Many rural and urban homeowners are using partial alternative systems —
adding solar panels as a supplement while staying on the commercial
power grid. If they produce more power than they use they can sell it
back to the power companies, which usually are required to buy it.
But a growing number of Americans are “going whole-hog,” said Montana
resident Ryker, whose books include “Off the Grid.”
“It's still fairly expensive for the average person,” Ryker said, and
advised against impulsive moves. “You have to look at the long term,
what you're going to put into it, how long you're going to be in the
“Where you are in the country makes a difference,” she said. “Energy is
cheaper in Texas than in Montana. It makes more sense to invest up here
than down there.”
Homeowners aren't alone in going off-grid.
The Los Angeles Community College District hopes to start moving its
nine campuses, plus two in development, onto solar power and off the
grid beginning next year.
Larry Eisenberg, executive director for facilities planning, said with
credits and other incentives through private contractors, systems will
cost between $900,000 and $1.8 million each and that energy savings
should recover capital costs in about two years.
“Our goal is to save $9 million a year,” he said.
“We want to show people this can work,” he said. “We've been chatting
with a lot of people. If we can do it, anyone else can do it too.”
Solar Power's New Dawn
By MARK PETERS, Courant Staff Writer
September 6, 2006
CHESHIRE -- Large arrays of solar panels are popping up on the roofs of
big retail stores and warehouses in Connecticut with help from
lucrative government subsidies and a push by corporations to "go green."
On Tuesday, high above the rumble of delivery trucks, Whole Foods
Market showed off a new tract of glimmering solar panels that will help
power the organic food purveyor's distribution center in Cheshire,
providing as much as 10 percent of the electric power it uses per year.
BJ's Wholesale Club recently finished a similar project for a store in
Ansonia and is developing a solar power system for a location in
In Killingly, Staples is starting construction on what is expected to
be New England's largest solar power installation. When finished, the
project will produce 433 kilowatts, or enough electricity to power 15
percent of the office-supply chain's 500,000-square-foot distribution
"I want to do every Staples in the United States," said Claire Broido
Johnson, a partner in SunEdison, which is developing the Whole Foods
and Staples projects.
Large-scale retailers are finding value in the broad expanses of their
rooftops. Installing a renewable power supply can cushion them against
the volatility of electric prices and reduce bills. At the same, the
solar projects provide good public relations by showing customers the
companies care about renewable energy.
The number of projects "is growing by leaps and bounds," said Jeffrey
Wolfe, CEO of Global Resource Options, an energy company that worked on
the Whole Foods project.
But the main reason such solar projects are becoming more popular is
generous federal and state subsidies, according to those involved in
For example, state officials said the Whole Foods project cost
$945,000. The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which is sustained by a
monthly charge on electric bills, provided $516,000 of that amount, and
the project is eligible for federal tax credits equal to 30 percent of
The Staples project has a similar funding arrangement, with the Clean
Energy Fund paying more than half of the $3.3 million installation,
according to Charlie Moret, a spokesman for the fund.
SunEdison of Maryland is responsible for the Staples and Whole Foods
projects. The company bought and installed the equipment at Whole
Foods, then brokered a long-term contract to sell the electricity from
the solar panels to the grocer. The price for that electricity is lower
than what Whole Foods would pay for power from the regional grid, said
Jennifer McDonnell, a specialist for the national retailer.
Electricity is produced when the solar panels absorb sunlight, creating
a flow of electrons that can be converted into electric power. The
level of solar power varies with the time of day and season.
The combination of state money, federal tax credits and a long-term
electric contract allows the projects to make economic sense, said
Christopher Whitman, managing director of ALLCO Finance Group, an
investor in SunEdison. He said the typical return for investors in
solar projects is less than 10 percent, with strong interest coming
from institutional investors. He described the Whole Foods solar
project as beneficial for everyone: The state reduces polluting
emissions as well as the demand for electricity. The companies get a
stable and potentially cheaper source of energy and investors make a
Whitman projected that solar power could become commercially viable in
five to 10 years. Right now, the demand for solar panels is high
because foreign countries such as Germany have lucrative government
programs designed to encourage a switch to renewable energy sources.
Also, the cost of silicon, a main component in solar panels, is
expected to come down as production increases in the coming years,
Even at a high cost, Lise Dondy, chief operating officer of the Clean
Energy Fund, said it is important for Connecticut to encourage solar
energy. They build awareness and confidence in the technology, and
begin to reduce the state's reliance on fossil fuel burning plants.
Dondy added that most industries get subsidies. Because of the cost of
solar power, government help is crucial in pushing private companies
toward renewable energy sources, she said.
Fresh Power Issue
Arises; Stamford Blackout Focuses Attention On Local Systems
August 5, 2006
By MARK PETERS, Courant Staff Writer
A main worry of utility regulators in New England and Connecticut has
been the continued growth in southwestern Connecticut without a
concurrent increase in new power plants and high-voltage lines to
satisfy the region's hunger for electricity.
But Thursday's dramatic blackout in
Stamford, which shut down office buildings and emptied downtown
streets, did not have anything to do with a lack of power. It boiled
down to an issue that has gotten less attention - equipment to
distribute electricity locally.
As temperatures reached the high 90s
and the demand for electricity hit record levels Wednesday and
Thursday, the underground distribution system in downtown Stamford,
which delivers power from substations to individual businesses and
homes, went out of service.
Two of the nine underground cables
feeding downtown Stamford failed after overheating on Wednesday. On
Thursday, an additional cable failed, causing Connecticut Light &
Power Co. to shut off power to 5,000 customers.
"I don't think the local systems
have gotten the amount of attention [they should] - particularly in
Stamford," Mayor Dannel Malloy said.
Malloy saw the downtown blackout as
a larger example of other problems the city has experienced in recent
years with its underground electricity system. He blamed the problem on
an aging network of lines that needs updating, something he and
CL&P had begun discussing before this week's power failure.
"They've got to come up with a plan
to quickly modernize the system," Malloy said.
CL&P officials, who were unable
to provide the age of the system that malfunctioned, said they
continually work throughout the state to update local systems that
distribute electricity. The Stamford blackout will obviously require an
increase in the utility company's work there, said Chris Swan, a
spokesman for CL&P.
"This is going to get us very
focused down there," he said.
CL&P distribution updates
include numerous projects, from adding transformers to upgrading lines.
The utility plans to do $200 million worth of work for each of the next
five years, Swan said.
Until this week, the main focus of
the state's energy policy-makers has been getting more power to
southwestern Connecticut. CL&P is also spending more than $1
billion on new high-voltage lines to serve the region. At the same
time, a new ratepayer-funded program has been instituted to prompt the
construction of new power plants.
Local power distribution has been of
less concern because the state has not had major problems in that area,
said Beryl Lyons, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public
Consumer Counsel Mary Healey, who
represents ratepayers in utility cases, agreed. But she said Friday
that her office is reviewing the Stamford blackout, and what CL&P
plans to do to ensure that a widespread power failure does not occur
"We're very interested in what the
company's action plan might be," she said.
Reliable power is an important issue
for Stamford as the city continues to attract financial services firms,
hedge funds and reinsurance companies, city officials said.
Jack Condlin, president of the
Stamford Chamber of Commerce, said that if a company was considering a
move to the city right now, the events of the past few days might cause
"It does bring to light that our
grid system is very vulnerable here. That is something that needs to be
addressed," he said.
all-time power usage record
by MEGHAN BARR, Hour Staff Writer
July 19, 2006
REGION — New England toppled its all-time record for electricity use
Tuesday as temperatures soared into the 90s, prompting residents to
turned up the air-conditioning to escape the heat. Preliminary data
compiled by ISO New England, the operator of the region's bulk power
system, revealed that electricity use reached more than 27,000
Megawatts, surpassing a record of 26,885 MW set last summer.
"Temperatures in the mid-90s and high humidity combined to drive
electricity use to record levels," said Stephen G. Whitley, senior vice
president and chief operating officer of ISO New England. "Despite the
new record, power supplies were adequate to meet consumers' electricity
needs throughout the day, and the regional power system operated
The power grid operator was not forced to implement emergency operating
procedures designed to stave off a blackout when electricity demand
begins to outstrip supply, said ISO New England spokesperson Erin
"There was not a formal request asking electricity customers to
conserve," O'Brien said.
ISO New England's records show that nine out of the 10 highest demands
days ever occurred in 2005 and 2006, and peak demand grew from 24,000
to 27,000 Megawatts between 2004 and 2006.
"Maintaining a reliable power system in the face of growing electricity
demand requires comprehensive regional solutions that include
investment in new, diverse sources of electricity, improvements to the
transmission system and additional demand response and energy
efficiency throughout the region," Whitley said.
UConn hosts forum on Sound gas float
By HAROLD F.
COBIN, Hour Correspondent
June 9, 2006
STAMFORD — Based on the issue of
whether or not to locate a liquefied natural gas platform in the middle
of Long Island Sound, representatives of parties both for and against
the project Thursday night debated whether the demand for natural gas
in the Connecticut/New York metropolitan area will soon exceed supply
or remain sufficient through implementation of energy conservation
Sponsored by SoundWaters, a Stamford
organization that provides educational programs about the Sound, the
debate featured Ezra D. Hausman of Synapse Energy Economics of
Cambridge, Mass., challenging Joel M. Rinebold, a consultant for
Broadwater, a collaboration between the Shell Oil Company and
TransCanada to build and install the liquefied natural gas platform.
Rinebold argued the demand for
natural gas in this area to generate electricity is growing sharply,
while Hausman said new supplies of gas from Canada, combined with
improvements in energy efficiency, will mitigate the need for the
Saying the demand for natural gas in
the area has grown 25 percent over the last 10 years, Rinebold said if
new supplies are not brought in soon, "we're going to be sitting in the
Hausman said transporting gas
through a pipeline is cheaper than shipping it in liquefied form. As
well, he said, the availability of liquefied gas is extremely tight.
There is "enormous potential" in
conservation, said Hausman, and energy efficiency pays off year after
The liquefied natural gas, or LNG,
would be transported from overseas in ships, and piped into the
platform where it would be warmed back into a gas.
Broadwater says the platform, called
a floating storage and regasification unit, would be approximately
1,200 feet long and 180 feet wide. It says the deck would rise between
75 and 100 feet above the water line.
It would require Broadwater to
install 22 miles of pipeline from the platform to existing gas
transmission pipeline that runs beneath the Sound.
The proposed site is about 9 miles
off the closest New York shoreline and about 11 miles from the closest
shoreline in Connecticut.
The forum was held at the University
of Connecticut's downtown campus.
Broadwater wants to have the
platform installed and operating by 2010.
Thank you, Woodlands
Three phases of the project:
PHASE ONE STORIES BELOW
IN REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
line meeting set
KOCH Hour Staff Writer
Connecticut Light & Power Co. will unroll at City Hall tonight
plans for its Norwalk-Bethel high-voltage transmission lines. "We're
to discuss our construction schedule for the overhead as well as
line, and we'll have maps to show folks," said Frank J. Poirot,
for CL&P parent company Northeast Utilities.
set to begin next month, will bury an existing 115-kilovolt line and
an aboveground 345-kilovolt line into Norwalk. Bethel, Redding, Weston
and Wilton also lie in the path of the project, part of the utility
plan to upgrade the power grid in southwestern Connecticut. Poirot said
the information meeting, scheduled for 7 tonight in the Community Room
of City Hall, 125 East Ave., is intended to inform motorists and
along the path of the project about how they will be affected.
On hand to
answer questions will be Poirot, Project Manager Laurie Aylsworth and
support crews. Next month, contractors will begin digging in streets
the route in preparation to bury the 115-kilovolt line. In Norwalk, the
work will run down Glover Avenue to Main Avenue and onward to the New
Avenue substation, Poirot said.
intent for us is to minimize the amount of inconvenience that road
will have," Poirot said. Poirot said work in commercial areas generally
will be done at night, while construction in residential areas will
during the day. Work will be done in steps, beginning with the
of splicing vaults and digging of trenches.
to have the 115-kilovolt line buried by year's end. The entire project
is slated for completion in late 2006. Residents of Norwalk's
neighborhood fought the Bethel-Norwalk upgrade for years. Last year,
city lost its court battle to overturn approval of the project by the
Siting Council, the nine-member board charged with reviewing and
or rejecting proposed utility constructions.
the Connecticut Siting Council approved an application by CL&P and
The United Illuminating Co. to build a 345-kilovolt transmission line
Middletown to Norwalk. That line will run underground from Milford to
plan cleared? Legislators, Blumenthal upset after draft decision
Over the objections
of 10 legislators and several Middlesex and New Haven county
the Connecticut Siting Council on Tuesday issued a draft opinion
it would approve United Illuminating Co. and Connecticut Light &
Co.'s 69-mile transmission line project.
"I think it
went pretty well, said Marcia Wellman, a spokesperson for UI, but she
that this is "a draft opinion and we don't know what it means."
She said the
council is still deliberating some key issues that could affect the way
the project is built.
Last week during
deliberations, the council indicated that it supported a $993 million
to run 24 miles of the line underground through Fairfield County and 45
miles of the line overhead through communities in Middlesex and New
counties, including Milford. But the council is holding oral arguments
on several elements of the plan on Thursday, and S. Derek Phelps, the
executive director, said in a previous interview that until the vote is
taken on April 7, nothing is final. Phelps was unavailable for comment
on Tuesday following the meeting.
acted on Tuesday despite calls from Sen. Len Fasano, R-East Haven, and
nine other legislators that they want the council to delay its decision.
said, in a prepared statement, that they are concerned that the council
has yet to determine how to mitigate the effects of electric and
fields that will be emitted by the line.
want to replace the existing 115-kilovolt lines with 345-kV ones that
generate higher levels of EMF (electric and magnetic fields). During
on the subject, the council began to write new EMF management
but it was discovered that the council consulted CL&P on the design
of those practices. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal demanded that
practices be scrapped and the council complied. But Pamela Katz, the
chairwoman, said last week that the council has enough evidence on the
subject of EMF to create a mitigation plan for the
in New Haven and Middlesex counties have been fighting to get
lines buried since the plan was proposed in 2003, claiming that
must be protected from the slim chance that EMF might create health
National and international studies conducted in the late 1990s found no
connection between EMF and health problems, but they also said that
remains a possibility that the fields could cause problems.
expressed concern about the council's draft opinion on Tuesday, issuing
a brief statement.
opinion clearly reflects the need for more work," he said, indicating
it's not clear how the council plans to deal with EMF and the lines'
to the environment. He added that he looks forward to arguing the issue
before the council on Thursday.
Line's Cost Jumps Nearly 80%
By STACY WONG,
Dec. 29, 2004
69-mile power line between Middletown and Norwalk could end up costing
more than $1 billion - nearly 80 percent more than the initial estimate
- developers said Tuesday in a filing to state authorities.
Light & Power and United Illuminating said the estimate has jumped
because of generally rising costs in the year since the line was
higher-than-expected costs to bury 24 miles of it and possible added
to reduce exposure to magnetic fields.
estimate was $600 million for the line, the largest electric
project in Connecticut in 30 years. That estimate was developed more
a year ago, however, and the project has been delayed before the
The new estimate
is $840 million to $990 million, plus $70 million to $80 million if
order the developers to reduce exposure to the magnetic fields.
bring the total to $1.07 billion.
"Even at this
late point in the review process this is only an estimate and things
change, depending on what the siting council's decision is," CL&P
Frank Poirot said.
it was too early to know how much of the project's cost will be borne
Connecticut ratepayers and how much will be shared with ratepayers in
states. Federal officials have ruled that the six New England
will share the cost of any new electric transmission line that bolsters
the reliability of the region's power grid.
But if the
line costs more because of local or state considerations - such as
it underground rather than overhead - ratepayers in that state alone
pay those additional costs.
overall cost of the Middletown-to-Norwalk line drew a mix of dismay and
support from Connecticut state officials, business representatives and
a citizens' group that has advocated placing more of the line
Consumer Counsel Mary Healey said upon hearing the new estimate. She
her office will review the numbers in greater depth. However, the
higher cost estimate, coming on the heels of higher electricity and
gas costs for Connecticut consumers in 2005, caused her to question the
benefits of restructuring the state's electricity markets.
"This is just
piling on cost after cost on the ratepayer," she said. "At some point,
we have to stop and question this restructured world and the benefit we
are getting from it."
General Richard Blumenthal said in a prepared statement that the
deserve critical scrutiny, "not unquestioning acceptance."
"We will continue
to strongly support placing as much of the cable underground as
as is required by current state law and sound public policy," he said.
"How the cost could rise so dramatically is cause for challenging the
of these estimates."
The line would
complete a two-phase plan to ship more electricity into power-poor
Connecticut, one of the weakest sections of New England's power grid.
approved the first phase, a 20-mile line from Bethel to Norwalk, in
who follows energy issues for the Connecticut Business and Industry
said the higher cost is the result of the state's own law requiring
new transmission lines be built underground wherever possible.
something. State consumers are going to pay more. That's part of what
seeing," Earley said.
Ruth Ann Wiesenthal-Gold,
president of the Woodlands Coalition, a group of citizens seeking to
as much of the line built underground as possible, said the cost may
high, but it includes important features.
line means greater sensitivity to environmental issues, and it means
families along the line's proposed route not losing their homes to the
right-of-way, she said.
sounds huge," she said, "But if that number saves 29 families from
displaced, not to mention property owners losing significant pieces of
their property, then you have to say, what price peace?"
miles of power line could be buried
, New Haven REGISTER Thursday October 14, 2004
A consultant hired by the Connecticut Siting Council has issued
findings that suggest that between 10 and 20 miles of high voltage
transmission cable can be buried between Milford and Wallingford.
That’s in addition
to the 24 miles of 345-kilovolt underground cable already proposed by
Light & Power as part of an upgrade of high voltage electric cable
between Norwalk and Middletown.
findings were released Wednesday as part of a summary presented by
Council Executive Director Derek Phelps during a Federal Regulatory
Technical Conference at the Legislative Office Building.
mitigation is employed, additional undergrounding of up to 20 miles
the proposed corridor from East Devon north to Beseck would be
feasible," the KEMA summary states. East Devon refers to Milford and
refers to a substation located in Wallingford near the Meriden border.
says the ability to bury additional portions of the cable is contingent
upon the use of filters and stabilizers designed to prevent
that could damage the regional power grid. The full report will be
on Friday, Phelps said.
"We will make
the report and our consultants available to all parties involved,"
will likely return to Connecticut in December or early January to take
part in that questioning, said agency Chairman Pat Wood.
UI and CL&P
say the proposed cable is needed to supplement the aging 115-kilovolt
and to ensure reliability in Fairfield and New Haven counties.
"You have too
much good going on in this state and we don’t want to see a fragile
system ruin that," said Wood, who referred to the current transmission
in Fairfield and New Haven counties as "third world," before choosing
and citizens groups seeking to maximize the amount of cable buried
the proposed route hailed the findings as a breakthrough.
"This is what
we have been saying from Day 1," said Milford Mayor James L. Richetelli
Jr. "I suspect the power companies will refute it; hopefully, they
President Ruth Ann Wiesenthal-Gold said KEMA’s findings will force UI
CL&P to take a harder look at increasing the amount of buried cable.
certainly something they’ve got to pay attention to," Wiesenthal-Gold
Selectman Mitchell Goldblatt said he and others in attendance at the
were caught off guard by the summary.
"This is a
huge development," Goldblatt said.
House Majority Leader James Amann, D-Milford, said proponents of
more of the power line need to build on the findings.
there is much more work that has to be undertaken so that we can come
with the best solution for our communities to accept," Amann said.
Mary Fritz, D-Wallingford, said KEMA’s initial findings support a law
General Assembly passed last spring requiring power lines to be buried
when technically feasible.
"This is a
vote of confidence for the legislation we created," said Fritz.
Winthrop S. Smith Jr., R-Milford, says KEMA’s findings call into
claims by the utilities and ISO-New England, the regional power grid
that burying more of the cable can’t be done safely.
… completely undercuts the position of the applicant and ISO," Smith
"The Siting Council is to be commended for hiring this expert to
ISO-New England and the two utilities offered a more measured response.
to take a look at the full report and analyze it a little deeper," said
Frank Poirot, a CL&P spokesman.
it appears, they (KEMA) did only one level of study," said Stephen
chief operating officer of ISO New England. "What we have to do is dig
a little deeper, into the next level."
Wood said he
and fellow FERC commissioners Nora Brownell and Suedeen Kelly came to
to learn more about the difficulties in siting the proposed 69-mile
CT Siting Council Hearing:
pan power line
KOCH, Norwalk Hour Staff Writer
Mayor Alex Knopp and Public Works Director Harold Alvord argued
against running a proposed 345-kilovolt Middletown-Norwalk transmission
line under residential streets.
wants the line under Route 1. State transportation officials in June
three alternative routes that would run the high-voltage transmission
under various residential streets.
Knopp and Alvord testified against those alternatives at a Connecticut
Siting Council hearing in New Britain. The nine-member board has until
next spring to approve or reject the line.
are a bad idea because they'll make the line more expensive, less
or longer, and therefore compromise the ability to put it underground,"
said Knopp, after returning from the hearing. "The original line along
Route 1 has the least impact on residential areas and the alternative
have the maximum impact. You can't make it longer and keep it all
Knopp said the state Department of Transportation has proposed three
routes, all along residential streets in Norwalk.
The first option
would affect Main and Newtown avenues; and Broad, Cannon, Murray and
streets. The second alternative uses Old Kings Highway South; East,
Sunset and Strawberry Hill avenues; and King, Tierney, Wall and William
streets. The third option affects County Street and Old Kings Highway
testimony to the Siting Council, Knopp and Alvord challenge the state's
reasons for using the alternative routes. They dismiss that it will
twists and turns, run along reasonable terrain and use lower volume
in noncommercial areas.
Alvord acknowledged that traffic volumes on the residential streets
be less than that on U.S. Route 1 during normal business hours," but
that it is "intense in the mornings and evenings." They argued that
on Route 1 is down in the evening and early morning, allowing nighttime
"The most important
reason Norwalk opposes all of the ConnDOT alternatives is that all of
alternatives add three or more miles to the length of the lines from
to Norwalk, and therefore would sabotage the widely recognized goal of
reliably placing underground as much of this transmission facility as
stated Knopp and Alvord in a prefiled testimony.
has until April to decide on the Middletown-Norwalk line, after a
extension was granted. As the hearings continue, the utility company is
standing by its preferred route along Route 1. "It provides the width
we need. The residential streets are barely two lanes wide --
wouldn't merely slow the flow of traffic, it would stop it dead,"
Utilities spokesman Frank J. Poirot said. "Route 1 is also a straighter
and flatter route." Northeast Utility's original plan to run the line
24 miles from Milford to Norwalk was called into question in June, when
ISO New England expressed reliability concerns.
it is premature for the Siting Council to consider the DOT alternatives
until a working group comprising ISO New England, Northeast Utilities
United Illuminating determine "which route is going to be a reliable
route." Poirot said Northeast Utilities is finishing a preliminary
whose results "are not encouraging for additional underground" cable
the 24 miles proposed from Milford to Norwalk. An aboveground line into
Norwalk, however, appears unlikely.
unlikely that the Norwalk stretch of the right-of-way would change,"
said. "The impact on homes along (an) aboveground route would just be
great. We don't see that as an attractive alternative proposal," he
line is part of a larger plan to upgrade the power grid in southwestern
Connecticut. Other elements include an already-approved 345-kilovolt
line that will run aboveground into Norwalk; and an underground
delays ruling on power lines; Several more hearings needed
By ROB VARNONrvarnon@ctpost.com
questions plaguing plans to upgrade electric power lines between
and Norwalk, the Connecticut Siting Council on Monday decided to
hearings on the matter until September.
Illuminating Co. and Connecticut Light & Power Co. submitted a
application with the council last year to replace the 50-year-old power
lines feeding southwest Connecticut.
offered a two-phase plan; the council gave preliminary approval to the
first phase, to replace the lines running from Bethel to Norwalk. But
second phase - replacing lines from Middletown to Norwalk - ran into
after review by the region's power grid operator, Independent System
In June, ISO
New England raised concerns about Phase 2 because the companies
to run 24 miles of the new lines underground, which would create
irregularities that would compromise reliability, according to ISO New
ISO and the two companies have worked together to find a technical
but the Siting Council decided to suspend public hearings on the
pending further review.
decided Monday to move forward with some of the issues confronting the
project and will hold a hearing Sept. 8 in New Britain to discuss a
by two towns to rescind the council's preliminary approval of Phase 1.
of Durham and Wallingford are asking the council to reconsider due to
reliability concerns confronting that project, because 12 miles of the
lines will be buried.
The two companies
are opposing the towns' request and both sides are expected to deliver
arguments in September.
Council also said it will discuss new state laws calling for buffer
to reduce the effects of the electric and magnetic fields that power
create. There is growing concern among townspeople that the fields
cancer, and some medical studies that seem to support this.
also announced that it will hold evidentiary hearings on UI and
application on Sept. 28 and 29 at Central Connecticut State University
in New Britain on magnetic fields and preferred routes for the power
line could cost $250M more
By Lisa Chamoff,
could allow the Fairfield County portion of the proposed
power line to remain buried, but it may cost an additional $250 million
that would likely be shouldered by state residents.
OSI New England,
Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating Co. filed a
with the Connecticut Siting Council yesterday detailing the
which the firms said requires further study to ensure reliability.
design would keep 24 miles of the 345-kilovolt transmission line
from Norwalk to Milford. It would use static synchronous compensators,
or statcoms, in at least six spots along the transmission line to help
keep voltage at a constant force.
that it could create an undesirable amount of complexity," Stephen
ISO New England's chief operating officer, said yesterday during a news
conference. "In addition, the alternative design will cost more to
and to operate (and) will require the hiring and training of
It is highly probable that all these additional costs will be paid by
the group will continue to study the feasibility of the design and
to report back to the Siting Council by the end of next month. He
the proposal unique in that it would use more of the new devices than
other system in the country.
a spokesman for Northeast Utilities, called the alternative
complex" and said the higher cost should not come as a surprise.
"We have maintained
since day one, if you want to go underground, it will cost more," he
was required by the Siting Council, which regulates the placement of
lines, after OSI New England, the region's power grid operator,
an underground line's reliability during a hearing in June.
Council already approved the first phase of the project, a 20-mile line
from Bethel to Norwalk. Twelve miles on that route would be underground.
UI -- which are jointly proposing the power line project -- formed a
and Operability Committee with OSI New England to explore options that
would keep the line underground while addressing the grid operator's
who had expressed shock at OSI New England's opposition, said they were
optimistic about the new proposal despite the price tag.
the bombshell that ISO New England dropped in June when it claimed that
the underground proposal was not reliable at all, this is certainly
news, because it means that the original plan can more or less go
Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp said. "There is a feeling that rate payers are
going to be paying the cost of this and it's better to have it
Robert Duff, D-Norwalk, said although $250 million sounds expensive,
cost would be spread among all Connecticut ratepayers.
"I think that
it's always expensive to do any of these lines," he said. "In talking
people, they'd be willing to pay a little more on their electric bill
month to keep the lines underground."
Council said it would suspend hearings on the project until ISO New
and the utilities come up with a solution they support.
The extra work
to bury the lines would bring the entire transmission line upgrade,
the Bethel to Norwalk section, to an estimated $1.2 billion. Statcoms
would require more land acquisition and labor costs that have not yet
allow for all of New England to help pay for necessary transmission
in the region that improve reliability in the system. But, Whitley
Connecticut customers might have to pay for any unnecessary extra costs
other utilities in New England are going to be very concerned about
whole project being over $1 billion," Whitley said.
over electric price zones
By Louis Porter,
July 22, 2004
business leaders of southwestern Connecticut are preparing to fight a
generators more. They say the proposal could dramatically hike costs
who oversee electricity generation and distribution in New England are
zone for southwestern Connecticut to encourage the building of new
The two agencies
involved are the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees
and ISO New England, which runs the power grid in the region. Money
could go directly to power companies, which proponents of the plan say
are a lack of generation resources in southwestern Connecticut, there
for a separate
zone," said Ellen Foley, spokeswoman for ISO. "The goal is to spur
The price zone
would stretch from Greenwich to New Haven and include about 50 cities
If FERC approves
the ISO proposal -- which FERC requested -- the new pricing could go
early as January
2006, officials said. New zones would be created elsewhere in New
would lead to energy prices as high as in southwestern Connecticut.
Dannel Malloy, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and
change could result in power bills soaring by as much as several
They say ratepayers
would lose money long before the zone leads to increased energy
"We have to
fight this with every bit of strength we have," Malloy said. "This
the fact that it takes years to get permits and build an energy plant
It is especially
difficult and time-consuming to add power plants in Fairfield County,
many towns do
not meet federal
air-quality standards because of pollution from cars and from the
in a cost-based system," Malloy said. "But this is a penalty, and that
is very different."
ISO New England
sees it differently.
"The rest of
the state will no longer be subsidizing the cost of southwestern
in terms of
the amount of money paid for power generation in southwestern
where it is in
more generation plants will be encouraged, she said.
But some say
ISO's approach is unfair.
is outrageous," said Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy for
SACIA, the Business Council of Southwestern Connecticut. "I think this
is energy pricing run amok."
the incentives may be unnecessary because Fairfield County
are already near an agreement to allow the construction of the
and Norwalk-to-Middletown transmission lines.
"I am dismayed
by heavy-handed tactics like this, and it just demonstrates a
lack of understanding by Washington's bureaucrats about the economics
power generation in Connecticut," said state Sen. Andrew McDonald,
vice chairman of the Legislature's Energy and Technology Committee.
of this leads inevitably to the question of whether the regulators are
using this as a means to seek retribution for our principled opposition
to energize the Long Island Sound cable."
Some also don't
like that the additional money will go to power generators, some of
like NRG Energy Inc., own part or all of the so-called "sooty six"
plants. The six plants, the state's oldest and most polluting, are in
Bridgeport, Middletown, Milford, Montville and New Haven.
In March, Blumenthal
said in a statement, "This proposal will provide the power industry
a huge, unjustified windfall at the expense of consumers."
is already excess power produced in New England, he said.
would influence how much the new pricing system, called locational
capacity pricing zone, or LICAP, would cost.
FERC has not
established the base price to be paid for the capacity to produce
which will help establish prices under the LICAP system, Foley said. It
also is not clear how the state will distribute the new costs, she said.
when ISO New England responded to FERC's request for a LICAP proposal
included all of Connecticut in one zone, Foley said. Under that
the cost of the proposal would be $90 million to $120 million in the
year and increase afterward.
But last month,
FERC requested that southwestern Connecticut be in its own price zone
and ISO New England agreed. That means that Fairfield County would pay
more for power capacity than the rest of the state, Foley said.
including Blumenthal's, put the cost of the proposal in Connecticut
as high as $500 million a year within five years.
the cost for Fairfield County could be $375 million a year.
LICAP is part
of a larger push to have the marketplace determine costs -- and drive
-- rather than the government.
ISO New England and FERC last year implemented new rules regarding how
the price of power-line congestion is paid. Such costs, common in
Connecticut, used to be paid by ratepayers all over New England. Now
are paid for by Connecticut residents and companies alone.
spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power, which serves about 80
of the state, said the change has increased costs by $186 million for
company's customers from March 2003 until January 2004.
NU gives public
details of power line
By Christina S. N. Lewis, Stamford
ADVOCATE Staff Writer - similar event held in Norwalk two weeks later -
Stamford, March 18, 2004
STAMFORD -- Northeast Utilities
held its first public forum on a planned Glenbrook to Norwalk
line last night at the government center. The sparsely attended
house was the first in a series of four public forums the power company
is holding to solicit public comments
on a proposed new $100 million,
115-kilovolt transmission line.
of the few Stamford residents
to attend was Rhonda Keyt, who was concerned that the lines will pass
to her house. But she left the open house satisfied. "I think
have it really worked out," Keyt said. "It's in a spot that (I) don't
it'll be a problem for our neighborhood."
the underground cable line,
called the Glenbrook Cables Project, has drawn significant criticism
some towns, particularly New Canaan, Stamford's reaction has been mild
because only about a mile of the line would run through the city.
Robin Stein, Stamford's Land Use Bureau chief, said he was pleased the
cable would be underground minimizing "visual pollution." He said the
route, the primary route under consideration, is better for the city
construction would be less inconvenient along Route 1 than on Route
"(Route 106) gets heavy traffic and is only two lanes," Stein said.
company hopes to file a formal
proposal in May with the Connecticut Siting Council, which must approve
all utility projects. They hope for a decision by early next year and
complete the project by the end of 2007. Anticipating concerns
safety, construction and the environment, Northeast designed an
presentation that included a three-dimensional animation of the
phases, computer locator that showed the line in relation to a given
Northeast representatives stood at each station to answer questions.
also were given an energy cost-saving light bulb.
representatives said they
would minimize construction inconveniences by doing it during the day
residential areas. They also said that the line would be encased in
The line will run from a Hamilton Avenue substation to one on New
Avenue in Norwalk.
primary route under consideration
runs 8.1 miles, starting at Hamilton Avenue before heading up Brookside
Drive and crossing into Darien where it continues along an access road
west of Interstate 95. The route then heads northeast up Ledge
and joins Route 1 into Norwalk. Finally, the line heads north on
Riverside Avenue, crosses the Norwalk River and reaches the substation.
secondary route under consideration
would go up Glenbrook Road in Stamford and would pass through New
The 9.3-mile alternate plan goes north along Route 106 through western
Darien and into New Canaan. After heading down Old Stamford Road to
Road and Old Norwalk Road, the line would head south on Route 123 to
other public forums are scheduled
for Monday in Darien Town Hall auditorium, March 25 in the New Canaan
Hall auditorium, and March 30 in the Norwalk City Hall Community Room.
All sessions begin with an open house at 7 p.m. and a
segment at 8 p.m.
court to block power line
By Matt Breslow,
Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
March 6, 2004
asking a judge to block installation of a controversial power line
Broad River and Bethel while the city fights state approval of the
The city last week filed an application for a "stay," a court order
Northeast Utilities from installing the 345-kilovolt line, until there
is a ruling on Norwalk's appeal of the Connecticut Siting Council's
The stay application
and two appeals Norwalk filed are pending in state Superior Court in
Britain, located next door to the Siting Council, which decides the
of utility projects. Norwalk leaders and residents oppose the
project because NU plans to string the line atop 90-or 107-foot-tall
between a New Canaan Avenue substation and southern Wilton. A
the city filed with the stay application states the project would do
"irreparable harm," damaging or destroying "scenic, historic and
resources." Installation of the line would hinder economic
and the city's ability to "provide for the public health and safety,"
Frank Poirot yesterday said the company hopes to begin construction of
the Bethel-to-Norwalk line by late June or early July. Poirot said it
be speculative to comment on whether a stay would prevent NU from
a federal deadline of December 2007, when the line must be finished for
its $200 million cost to be spread among customers in all of New
of just Connecticut.
"I can't speculate
on that but . . . suffice it to say our schedule is tight as it is," he
said. The approved configuration calls for burying more than half
of the 20-mile line through Bethel, Redding, Weston and Wilton, though
none of its subterranean portions would be in Norwalk. The Siting
Council, NU and the four towns north of Norwalk affected by the project
have filed motions to dismiss the city's appeal. Judge Henry Cohn will
preside over an April 5 hearing in New Britain on the motions, which
has challenged. It remains unclear whether Cohn also will consider
stay application at the hearing.
submitted to support its stay application identify numerous problems
project would create for the city. Some relate to concerns about the
of the poles, while others involve disruption that could result along
Main Avenue. City officials and community leaders submitted
affidavits supporting the stay application, including Greater Norwalk
of Commerce President Edward Musante,
Zoning Director Michael Greene and Anne Carbone of the Norwalk
of Silvermine homeowners.
states the new power line could scare people away from the planned
River Valley Multi-Purpose Trail, slated to run parallel to the Norwalk
River from Oyster Shell Park to Wilton. An affidavit submitted by
Richard Linnartz, the city Public Works department's principal design
states burying part of an existing 115-kilovolt line under Main Avenue
would hinder public safety vehicle access and interfere with a major
inhabitants, living both within and within sight of the
project path, will suffer from increased exposure to harmful
and ecological impacts" of the line, one of the documents states.
The city also maintains the power line is unsightly and would adversely
affect residents' quality of life. Siting Council Executive
Derek Phelps could not be reached for comment yesterday.
lawyer to fight power line
By Brian Lockhart,
Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
The city has hired a former member of the state's utility siting
to spearhead the fight against Northeast Utilities' plans to run a
overhead power line into the historic Silvermine neighborhood.
Boucher of the law firm of Halloran and Sage has been tapped by Mayor
Knopp to appeal -- at a cost of $200 an hour -- the Connecticut Siting
Council's controversial decision to run the power line on 90-foot-high
power lines through Norwalk.
Common Council voted July 22 to seek an attorney to challenge the
"Attorney Boucher is, in my opinion, the premier utility and energy law
specialist in the state," Knopp said yesterday. "He can best represent
Norwalk's concerns that Northeast Utilities' proposal should not have
his resume, Boucher has been with Halloran and Sage since 1991 and is
of the firm's government affairs and administration and regulatory law
practice groups. Boucher's membership on the Connecticut Siting Council
from 1987 to 1991 coincided with his chairmanship of the Department of
Public Utility Control. He also has been a member of the National
Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a board member of the
National Regulatory Research Institute and president of the New England
Conference of Public Utility Commissioners.
three or four (attorneys), but he had an expertise on transmission and
power line-type disputes," said Louis Ciccarello, Norwalk's
counsel. "He has a very good reputation." Boucher could not
be reached for comment. The mayor said Boucher had agreed to
his customary $300 per hour rate to $200. Local Republicans have argued
the city would not be paying any legal fees, had the mayor handled the
345-kilovolt line situation differently.
NU has been
working for two years on a plan that would run additional power lines
Bethel to the New Canaan Avenue substation in Norwalk. The utility also
has proposed upgrading its lines from Norwalk to Middletown and beneath
Long Island Sound between Norwalk and Long Island, N.Y. NU in
entered into a deal with Bethel, Redding, Wilton and Weston to bury the
cable through those towns. About that time, Knopp announced he
arrived at a separate agreement allowing NU to run 130-foot-tall poles
near the Silvermine section of the city.
As part of
the agreement, the utility would have to guarantee in writing not to
plans to eventually run a cable from the New Canaan Avenue substation
several residential neighborhoods and across Long Island Sound.
residents, environmentalists and Common Council members said they had
previous knowledge of Knopp's agreement and no say in its formulation.
The mayor has
since said on different occasions that he was misled by NU regarding
ability to bury the line in Silvermine and that the four neighboring
sacrificed Norwalk to cut a deal with the utility company. Town
such as Wilton First Selectman Paul Hannah have disputed Knopp's
of the situation, arguing they made an effort to include Norwalk in
deal with NU.
Siting Council this summer agreed to mostly honor the compromise
NU and the four towns; however, in the face of the public outcry, it
the settlement design to shorten the poles in Norwalk to 90 feet.
Still, the Knopp administration decided to appeal the council's
and force NU to bury the 345-kilovolt lines in Norwalk.
believes the appeal is important because it could have implications on
the effort to have NU and the Siting Council agree to bury another
line planned to run to Middletown.
By HAL BROWN, Norwalk HOUR Staff
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
The Connecticut Siting Council announced
Tuesday that it is reopening the opinion it issued in July certifying
of the proposed 345,000-volt Bethel-to-Norwalk electric transmission
S. Derek Phelps, executive director of the siting council, said
action is to allow a technical correction to the council's opinion.
is for the purpose of modifying
some of the language that is contained in the opinion," Phelps said.
council does not intend in any way to alter the findings of fact or the
decision and order, only the opinion." The rewrite of the opinion is
he said, because "the statutes require that we address certain
and reasoning and we think it's appropriate that we reopen for the
of meeting the certificate's compliance with the statutes." A
from the siting council is necessary before the power lines project can
council's decision is unpopular
in many quarters in Norwalk. Under a plan negotiated between the
utility and Bethel, Redding, Weston and Wilton in March called
X, substantial portions of the circuit would run below ground in those
communities. Beginning in Wilton, the line would rise above
at "Norwalk Junction," a location south of the intersection of routes 7
and 33 opposite the USA Storage facility, and run parallel to Route 7
an existing right-of-way suspended on 130-foot-tall monopoles to
Utilities' Norwalk substation on New Canaan Avenue.
made a side agreement with
Northeast Utilities and was not a party to the compromise, dubbed
X. Residents, particularly in the Silvermine and Broad River
have objected to the overhead construction on aesthetic, economic and
grounds. The Norwalk Common Council authorized funds to hire an
to investigate the possibility of appealing the Siting Council decision.
question of whether the city
will appeal remains open, and the decision to reopen the opinion
means the city will have more time to consider its options.
said when the appeal is rewritten and sent out to parties in the power
line proceedings, it restarts a 45-day window for appeals of the
He would not say when the rewrite might be released.
the statute says is that upon
reopening we must complete whatever it is we're seeking to do within a
reasonable time," he said. "The first thing we are going to do is
develop some proposed language, circulate it among the service list (of
parties in the proceedings) to give everybody some time so they can
and get back to us. Then the council will take up the issue of what
it is they want to make in the way of changes to the opinion.
one that is sent out in the form of a new certificate package, I think
that would be the date upon which the 45-day period of the appeal is
Leigh Grant, president of the Norwalk Association of Silvermine
who attended Tuesday's meeting said she isn't sure why the
is being rewritten.
to the proceeding received
a copy of proposed changes to the opinion Tuesday, but Grant said she
not immediately see what was different in the rewrite. "There has
to be a legal reason," she said. "I don't see anything that is
different." Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp said he will have city staff
the changes. He said he has not had time to review the proposed changes.
Utilities spokesman Frank
Poirot said the company is not concerned about the rewrite of the
"It's something we can certainly live with and wait for the council to
go through its process," he said. "We can pick it up from there." He
the company is not worried that opponents of the power line will see
rewrite as an opening wedge to attack the project. "It won't stop
folks from trying, but as the Siting Council chair said (Tuesday), the
reopening has been narrowly defined to take care of technical
to the measure that was acted on in July, and that's it." Grant and
critics, though, were pleased. "Everything affords us hope,"
said. "Anything that gives us more time gives us hope."
said the restarted appeals
window "will allow us to do additional research to make sure that:
that an appeal is justified, as I believe it is; and second, to make
we submit the best appeal in terms of basing it on a solid reference to
the findings of fact and the opinion." No siting council decision on a
project has been overturned on appeal, leading some critics to sound a
cautionary note about optimism about the Tuesday action.
guess at this point it's all technical,"
said State Rep. Bob Duff, D-137, who has been a critic of the project,
and successfully championed legislation this year that changes the way
the siting council proceeds in cases in the future. "You don't
to get anyone's hopes up that they're gong to reverse their actions,
I don't think they're going to do," Duff said. "I think a lot of what
in Norwalk comes down to whether there is going to be
an appeal or not." Knopp would not give a definite date on when the
will decide about an appeal.
be making an announcement on
that shortly," he said. The siting council's action, he said, "is the
decision to protect the rights of Norwalk and other entities that may
to appeal." Wilton First Selectman Paul Hannah said he doesn't think
the opinion will affect the results. But the council's action "is too
because it means there will be a delay in getting (the project) going."
CONNIC, Hour Staff Writer, August 22, 2003
The Connecticut Siting Council chairwoman announced during a forum on
night that the council would hire an outside expert to analyze
tunneling for Phase II of Northeast Utilities high-voltage power line
and the council would not allow settlements as happened during Phase I.
organized by state Rep. Bob Duff, D-137, in order to prepare residents
from across the region for Northeast Utilities' Middletown to Norwalk
power line, which is Phase II of the company's power line
The first phase, which was highly contentious, stretched
Bethel to Norwalk, and one of the main issues was placing the overhead
power lines underground. Pam Katz, Siting Council chairwoman,
during the forum that she plans to send out a Request for Proposals in
order to hire an expert on underground power lines.
"There is a
little used statute that I uncovered that allows us to hire our own
she said. The consultant would help the council analyze the
and prepare questions to cross-examine Northeast Utilities officials on
the feasibility of an underground power line, Katz said. "Phase I
was more tortured than it needed to be on the issue," she said.
president of the Sierra Club of Fairfield County, said she would
the council to send the Request for Proposals to engineers from Europe
or Asia. "Underground transmission lines are not unique there,"
said. Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp said having an underground
line was the single biggest issue for the city during the proceedings
He said the
city's experts had asked the council to hire an independent expert on
matter, but the proposal was rejected. The council's members,
have a broad range of opinions on the reliability of an underground
line, Knopp said. The council's independent expert should also
a standard of what is considered reliable for an underground
line, he said.
If that is
not done, he said, the work the communities have done with providing
to Northeast Utilities on the proposal and the changes made could be
because the council would change portions of the plan. Katz said
the reliability of an underground transmission line is based on the
grid, and it is of varying degrees in each area. Because of the
between grids, she said, the council cannot set one standard, but the
would tell the council what the reliability is for the proposal.
Katz also said the council will not want to see settlements like it did
with the Phase I application.
the towns and utilities are talking to each other," she said. "I
them to talk." The council, however, could not just rubber stamp the
because there were "nine independently-minded people" serving on the
she said. G. Kenneth Bernhard, Weston and Wilton town attorney,
the decision of the council gives the impression that it has an agenda,
and he would think the council would want to encourage the two
groups to work together.
Katz said she
would want the electric company to settle with all communities or
"How would you feel if your community has overhead lines while your
struck a deal for underground in a settlement," she said. "I see
if some get a better deal than others." Wilton First Selectman Paul
said it may not be practicable to settle with all 22 communities
with the second phase and it may be feasible that there would be
with different issues.
"What you may
see is that this ends up being the equivalent of four separate
he said. After the meeting, Knopp said his chief objection to
I was that the Siting Council relied on a private settlement that
Norwalk. City officials are still considering their options to
the phase one decision, he said.
of Power Line Plan Approved
By Don Casciato, Westport NEWS,
Friday, July 18, 2003
After almost two years of protests
and discussions, the Connecticut Siting Council ruled Monday in a 6-2
that part of a Northeast Utilities
(NU) power line project, which includes
Weston, Bethel, Redding, Wilton and Norwalk, will be underground.
hearings held in Weston, as well
as other communities, overflow crowds had protested the project and
for underground installation.
Residents along the route of Phase
1 of the power project complained that the overhead lines were not
would lower property values, damage the environment and pose an
health risk because of the electromagnetic field emanating from the
terms of the Monday ruling,
a compromise plan with NU, called Configuration X, would put
half of the route underground. The other option, of putting all
lines underground, was called F3 and was favored by the towns at the
of the power drama but was termed
by NU as not being feasible, according
to Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss. The compromise with NU and
leaders of Weston, Bethel, Redding and Wilton had been announced March
think it is a very significant
decision," said Bliss. "We all [the other towns] felt that way. In
a lot of it is compromise. A lot of time was spent negotiating. It is
perfect, but it is acceptable. The Siting Council has great power and
one has won an appeal against a council decision." Bliss, who
the Siting Council session Monday with the chief executives of the
four communities, cited Westport's failed
appeal on a cell tower decision
as an example of the council's clout.
once an IBM executive, termed
the power lines an example of what engineers familiar with technical
physical problems call "risk balancing." Besides the Siting
decision, a new wrinkle has emerged in recent weeks. Norwalk, which was
not a party to the March 17 agreement with Weston, Wilton, Bethel and
has complained because the lines would surface from the underground and
be strung on poles from Norwalk Junction in southern Wilton to the New
Canaan Avenue electrical substation in Norwalk, according to press
bid for underground lines
was rejected in the Monday decision but 90-foot power line poles are
for the city instead of NU's
originally announced plans for poles
averaging 130-feet high. In addition, before the council vote
Pamela Katz, the chairman of the Siting Council, criticized NU for not
including Norwalk in the four-town agreement of March 17 and said the
omission was unwise.
hopes to start construction by
the end of the year, but the possibility of appeals remains despite the
past success of the Siting Council in court. There still is the
that some residents in the four towns might balk if they are near power
line poles and Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp said the ruling might be
Opponents of the decision can file an appeal up to 45 days after the
Council mails the final draft of the decision.
a TV interview Monday night after
the ruling, Knopp said he had hoped the Siting Council had hired its
independent expert to investigate
apart from using Northeast Utilities
data. In May, the Siting Council denied a request Knopp had made
for the appointment of an independent
through its subsidiary, Connecticut
Light & Power, plans to run the 345-kilovolt power line from its
sub-station in Bethel to its New Canaan Avenue substation in
The Configuration X plan was approved by Katz, the Siting Council
as well as Colin C. Tait, the vice chairman; Brian O'Neill, Daniel P.
Jr.; Edward S. Wilensky and Gerald J. Heffernan, who represented
of Public Utility Control Chairman Donald W. Downes.
T. Ashton, the appointee of
the governor on the council, and Brian J. Emerick, representing the
of the Department of Environmental Protection, posted the two no
Estimates of the cost of the project are subject to change depending on
when it starts, but the most recent price tag for the 345-kilovolt
line was $185 million, according to press reports.
Norwalk looks to appeal
power line decision
By Matt Breslow, ADVOCATE Staff
July 16, 2003
NORWALK -- The city will likely
hire an attorney specializing in utility projects to determine whether
it should appeal the Connecticut Siting Council's ruling on the
transmission line Northeast Utilities plans to run from Bethel to
In a final decision Monday, the Siting Council agreed to mostly honor a
compromise between NU and four towns -- Bethel, Redding, Weston and
-- that calls for burying more than half the 20-mile line.
agreement, which Norwalk was
not a part of, called for running the power line on 130-foot-tall
Out of consideration for Norwalk, which also wants the line buried,
Council members made one change to the settlement design: shortening
poles carrying the line from NU's planned average height of 130 feet to
about 90 feet.
the Siting Council's ruling has
not been well received in Norwalk, where Mayor Alex Knopp and many
want the entire line buried. Knopp yesterday said he will ask the
Common Council at its meeting Tuesday to hire an attorney specializing
in Siting Council utility projects to analyze the Bethel-to-Norwalk
mayor said his desire for an
appeal was heightened by comments Siting Council members made at
hearing questioning the reliability of
345-kilovolt underground lines.
Knopp said he is concerned the panel's comment indicate that it may not
allow NU to bury another major power line project, which is slated to
from Norwalk to Middletown. "If any appeal has a shot of winning,
then it's worth taking, especially in light of the new concerns I
the Norwalk-to-Bethel line,
Knopp said he has spoken to about 30 residents who supported a fully
cable, urging him to appeal Monday's decision. Anne Carbone, a
member of the Norwalk Association of Silvermine Homeowners, said
her group is contacting other neighborhood leaders to explain Monday's
ruling and ask people to e-mail Knopp in support of an appeal.
who favors a fully underground design for health and aesthetic reasons,
said everyone she has contacted wants the city to appeal the
"It's very clear -- people are very upset about this," she said.
NU spokesman Frank Poirot said an appeal is "something we expect."
know that there may be those
that are not completely satisfied with (Monday's) Siting Council
but we wouldn't be surprised or deterred if there is an appeal," he
Poirot said it is too early to say what an appeal could mean for the
project. However, he said an appeal likely would not prevent NU from
the line in time to meet the deadline for "socializing" the cost of the
line among all New England customers.
of new regulations, the line
must be operational by Dec. 20, 2007, for NU to require non-Connecticut
residents to share in the project's $185 million cost. NU hopes to
construction on the Bethel-to-Norwalk line by year's end and finish in
line to be built on 90-foot poles in Norwalk
By Matt Breslow, Stamford ADVOCATE
July 15, 2003
BRITAIN -- The verdict is in:
Poles about 90 feet high will carry the Norwalk section of Northeast
new 345-kilovolt power line between New Canaan Avenue and Bethel.
Otherwise, the $185 million project will mirror the compromise design
announced in March with Bethel, Redding, Weston and Wilton, the
Siting Council ruled yesterday in a final decision handed down at the
New Britain headquarters.
Mayor Alex Knopp and Anne
Carbone of the Norwalk Association of Silvermine Homeowners -- who had
urged the Siting Council to require NU to place the entire line
-- said they may appeal the ruling. NU said it hopes to start
by year's end on the Bethel-to-Norwalk line, which is slated to be
before yesterday's 6-2 vote,
Siting Council Chairwoman Pamela Katz chastised NU for failing to
Norwalk was included in the four-town settlement. Someone at NU should
have realized when the company began agreeing to place portions of the
line underground in other towns that it was unwise to omit Norwalk from
the negotiations, Katz said. "I believe a five-town settlement
probably look different from the four-town settlement we are dealing
today," Katz said.
had originally announced plans
to place the entire Bethel-to-Norwalk line atop poles averaging 130
high. The four-town settlement called for burying more than half the
line but keeping the proposed 130-foot towers in a few places --
the stretch between southern Wilton and a New Canaan Avenue substation.
Siting Council attempted to ameliorate
the situation by modifying the settlement design to require NU to bury
an existing 115-kV line in Norwalk that currently runs aboveground so
345-kilovolt line can be placed atop shorter poles, Katz said.
115-kilovolt line sits atop poles about 70 feet high in Norwalk; the
towers for the 345-kV line will be about 90 feet high.
the height reduction the
Siting Council voted to require in Norwalk, Carbone described the
association as "very disappointed" by the panel's ruling. "Having
those lines closer to us (on shorter poles) isn't a solution, and I'm
sorry that the council chose to humor us by allowing us to express our
opinion and then completely ignoring what we had to say," said Carbone,
whose neighborhood will host part of the 345-kV line.
said homeowners will speak with
Knopp before deciding whether to appeal the Siting Council's ruling.
such as the Silvermine association can file an appeal in state Superior
Court up to 45 days after the Siting Council mails out the final draft
of its decision. Knopp said he will consult with neighbors and
city's attorney before deciding whether to appeal. "But the
law system is very heavily weighted against appeals, and I don't want
appeal unless there is a reasonable chance of success," he said.
mayor said he is grateful the
Siting Council reduced the proposed towers' height in Norwalk, and he
the criticism Katz leveled against NU for failing to ensure Norwalk was
included in the four-town settlement. "But I regret that the
Council did not hire its own independent expert to investigate apart
Northeast Utilities about how much underground cable is reliable,"
said. "Therefore, this decision was too much driven by NU and had too
independent analysis in support of the all-underground option that all
the public supports."
the Siting Council denied
a request Knopp made in May for the panel to appoint an independent
he said Katz last week pledged to hire an outside analyst for NU's
unveiled proposal to place a 345-kV line from Norwalk to
Several Siting Council members, including some who voted in favor of
final ruling that passed yesterday, expressed concern before the vote
the design's reliability.
Siting Council member Edward
Wilensky said the configuration's benefits far outweigh any
Council member Gerald Heffernan said NU feels the configuration is
Heffernan and other Siting Council members attested to the expanding
for electricity in southwestern Connecticut. "I think it's been
that they absolutely need the power in the area," Heffernan said.
spokesman Frank Poirot yesterday
praised the Siting Council's decision, saying it reflected wisdom and
for all towns affected by the project. However, Poirot said NU
the lesson that it should "go the extra mile" to ensure all towns are
in settlement talks for future projects. "The whole process has
a real lesson for us, and that's one of the more important lessons
learned, I'm sure," he said.
is the big day at Siting Council headquarters...
Knopp upset about letter
By HAL BROWN
HOUR Staff Writer, Saturday, July 12, 2003
Alex Knopp drafted a last minute motion to the Connecticut Siting
Friday, asking council members to refile and restate a letter that asks
municipalities along the proposed 345-kilovolt Bethel to Norwalk power
line what their preference is for the line's design and route.
Council sent inquiry letters to the five towns along the Phase 1 345kV
line route on July 2, asking the towns' preference. Knopp's
drafted and sent Friday, says that letter contains "a hidden flaw"
it doesn't clearly say that an all above-ground line will not be under
consideration. The Siting Council meets Monday in New Britain to
consider its final findings of fact, a preliminary to issuing a
for the project. The certificate is a state requirement before it can
communities will be less than forthcoming in their support for an
line because Northeast Utilities, the corporation proposing the power
has an implied threat against the towns to revert to its
all-overhead route. That proposal caused considerable furor in
Redding, Wilton, Weston and Norwalk. Residents along the route of Phase
1 complained that the overhead lines are not aesthetic, will lower
values, damage the environment and pose an undetermined health risk
of the electromagnetic field emanating from the lines.
The four northern
towns on the route reached a compromise agreement, tabbed Configuration
X, with NU, announced March 17, that would put more than half the route
underground. Norwalk, which was not a party to the agreement, has
primarily because the lines would surface from the underground and be
on 130-foot poles from Norwalk Junction in southern Wilton to the New
Avenue electrical substation in Norwalk. The prospect of the overhead
line spurred protests in the Silvermine and Broad River neighborhoods
Norwalk after the agreement was announced.
In the interim,
Northeast Utilities has announced the Phase 2 of the 345kV project from
Norwalk to Middletown. That project includes a 14-mile underground
of cable from Norwalk to the Bridgeport area. Previously NU had said
cable could be buried only for five miles at a stretch before it needed
to be strung overhead. On June 27 NU and Bethel submitted a
of a technical question that said that an all underground (F3) route
be a sufficiently reliable design for the project.
was followed by a June 30 submission from Wilton, Weston and Redding,
they supported the F3 underground solution. Norwalk issued a similar
the following day. On July 2 the Siting Council asked the towns
clarify their position vis a vis the power line design. Friday
the chief executives of towns along the line seemed to favor either the
F3 all-underground solution, or the compromise
"We have supported
the F3 configuration since the beginning," said Weston First Selectman
Woody Bliss yesterday. Faced with the assertion that the F3 line was
feasible, though, Bliss said Weston and the other towns negotiated
X with Northeast Utilities. "We're going to back away from our
with NU, he said. "So I guess you could say that sort of leaves
in NU's hands. If NU wants to go ahead with F3, terrific. But if for
reason they feel (Configuration) X is a better configuration, we
executive Judy Novachek and Wilton First Selectman Paul Hannah said the
F3 solution was their original first choice, too. Novachek said
would prefer the all-underground route, but is committed to
X. Hannah said Wilton, like the other towns, preferred the F3
solution from the beginning. But, he said, given Northeast
reservations about the underground route Wilton compromised, along with
the other towns, on Configuration X.
if the Siting Council, in its wisdom, were to decide on the F3 option,
we would certainly accede to that," he said. "But we are somewhat
by the agreement that we have come up with. We don't really have
a choice (other than Configuration X) because we've made a deal."
he said, "is not inclined to break that deal." "The danger of trying to
break that deal is that if we break it, then Northeast Utilities can
it -- and they all along have preferred the overhead option." Knopp
basically the same thing in his Friday submission to the Siting
Responses from the four northern towns, he said, "will not accurately
whether the four towns prefer Configuration X over F3, but only that
towns prefer Configuration X over the original all above-ground NU
outcome," Knopp wrote, "is that the Siting Council will be delegating
authority to make the final transmission configuration decision to NU."
Hannah said Knopp's assessment of the implied NU threat to return to
all-overhead proposal is probably correct. "Nothing as far as the
Siting Council is off the table," he said. "The Siting Council is
free to force an all above-ground solution, legally free to force an
solution -- and, of course, it has the right to design the line itself,
if you will. Certainly there are a whole bunch of options that have
presented that it could use as a guideline."
he doesn't know how to assess the possibility of an overhead
"I don't pretend to read what's on other people's minds," he said of
Utilities. "That's why I'm going (to the Siting Council meeting)
I think we're all going Monday to find out what the deliberation is,
that they've had all the information and a chance to digest it and the
staff has looked it over thoroughly. We're very interested in listening
to their discussion, the rationale for reaching whatever conclusion
reach." Novachek, in Bethel, said that after two years' work on the
line proposal, "it's time to make a decision." "The Siting Council, I
has two viable options (F3 and Configuration X) and I think rather than
playing with it, which I don't believe is their duty, they need to deal
with the application as it stands, not go out and design something
Novachek, specifically ruled out a proposal put forth by Siting Council
Chairwoman Pamela Katz and three other council members at the end of
That proposal, Configuration XX, changed the compromise route,
some lines that were to be buried and stringing them overhead on
Novachek said she would "never ever, ever, ever support the
XX) suggestion they made."
towns asked for stance on power line
By Matt Breslow - Stamford ADVOCATE
July 10, 2003 the Connecticut Siting
Council is confused about whether Northeast Utilities plans to bury the
entire 345-kilovolt Bethel-to-Norwalk power line. The answer, an
NU spokesman reiterated yesterday, is a resounding "no."
a document NU and the town
of Bethel jointly filed June 27 elicited varying interpretations --
from NU and Bethel -- the Siting Council is asking both parties and
Weston and Wilton to clarify which design they prefer before the panel
makes a decision this month.
letters that seek responses by
tomorrow, the Siting Council offers NU and the four towns a simple
Either reiterate support for the compromise design they announced in
or endorse an all-underground route. The Siting Council could
a final ruling on the Bethel-to-Norwalk line at a special meeting on
spokesman Frank Poirot yesterday
said his company plans to submit a response to the Siting Council's
echoing a statement he made last week: Despite speculation to the
contrary, NU does not favor an all-underground route. Siting
Executive Director Derek Phelps said he sent the letters seeking
because the document NU and Bethel jointly filed last month said that
all-underground line would be adequately reliable, evoking speculation
the company decided it now prefers that option.
the wake of the NU/Bethel filing,
Redding, Weston and Wilton officials submitted a document on June 30
the Siting Council to "strongly consider" forcing NU to bury the entire
Norwalk filed a document July 1 stating it appeared NU and the four
were endorsing an all-underground line, and urging the Siting Council
agree to that design as well.
said the Siting Council is
seeking clarification on the positions of NU and the four towns because
the compromise design announced in March would bury only part of the
while placing 345-kilovolt lines above ground in other places --
in Norwalk, where 130-foot poles would be erected. "We felt that
it was appropriate to ask that they clarify their position," Phelps
Poirot said NU still supports the four-town compromise announced in
First Selectman Woody Bliss
said his town along with Redding and Wilton -- and possibly Bethel --
submit a joint response telling the Siting Council they continue to
the settlement with NU. Bliss said the response will state that
the compromise was reached, the
towns had called for NU to bury
the entire line. The towns will resume support for an all-underground
only if NU decides to make that design its preference, Bliss
An attorney for Bethel declined to say what his town's response will
because it has not yet been filed with the Siting Council.
said he did not send a letter
to Norwalk requesting clarification of the city's position on the
because Norwalk was not part of the settlement with NU. After
emerged that NU had changed its stance at the eleventh hour, Poirot
week said there was no new information in the company's joint filing
Bethel, which was submitted simply to correct a perceived
on the Siting Council's part.
Siting Council had begun deliberating
on the Bethel-to-Norwalk project last month, and discussed two possible
alternatives to the four-town settlement. One change would shorten the
height of poles in Norwalk, while the other would increase the number
above-ground lines in Bethel. Poirot said NU believes the Siting
Council raised the proposed changes, which angered Bethel officials,
of concerns about the compromise design's reliability. The June 27
was simply meant to ease the Siting Council's fears about the
said NU's response to the Siting
Council's recent query will state the company's first choice for the
line would have been placing the entire project above ground, for
and reliability reasons. However, Poirot said NU will make it
the company continues to honor the agreement it made with Bethel,
Weston and Wilton. The recent changes to the compromise design mulled
the Siting Council are also acceptable to NU, Poirot said.
said the company's response to
the Siting Council will reiterate an all-underground line would be
reliable, but not as dependable as the compromise design.
F. COBIN Hour Correspondent, June 18, 2003
A proposed revision to a plan to run high-voltage power lines from
to Norwalk is a deal-breaker, according to Bethel's Republican First
Judith A. Novachek, who said she was "furious" that lines that were to
run below ground would, instead, be strung above ground between poles.
"What the hell
did we go down this road for?" asked Novachek of her town's
with Northeast Utilities. "Why didn't they say upfront, 'Look, this is
the way it's going to be.'" Novachek responded Tuesday to a proposal by
members of the state's Siting Council to route high-voltage power lines
around Bethel's Educational Park above ground, rather than have them
two below-ground paths. Bethel was one of four towns north of
that negotiated a plan with Northeast Utilities, announced in March and
called Configuration X, to place much of a new 345-kilovolt circuit
ground within their borders that the utility had intended run above
between poles as tall as 130 feet. The other towns were Redding,
Weston and Wilton, with the agreement resulting in the 345-kilovolt
completely bypassing Weston.
the proposed revision to that agreement Monday, the chairwoman of the
Siting Council, Pamela B. Katz, said the benefit to Bethel of modifying
the agreement would be moving an existing 115-kilovolt overhead
line off the Educational Park's property. But under the revision,
the 115-kilovolt circuit would be strung between poles along with the
345-kilovolt lines through an area where the agreement called for them
to be buried.
345-kilovolt lines above ground would eliminate the need to use a type
of cable NU has described as technically difficult to install and of
reliability at that voltage. Katz revealed the proposal, called
20, at the council's New Britain headquarters during a meeting where
members reviewed a revised report on the proposed 345-kilovolt
circuit. Katz said she and three other members of the council,
as a sub-committee, developed the proposal unbeknownst to the rest of
council, the utility, or other interested parties, few of whom sent
to the sparsely attended meeting.
also calls for burying one of two existing aboveground 115-kilovolt
in Norwalk, along with a 27.6-kilovolt line, leaving another
115-kilovolt line in place. As a result, the new 345-kilovolt lines
be strung between structures either 90- or 108-feet tall, instead of
130-foot-tall monopoles the utility planned to install along its
right-of-way from Wilton to its Norwalk sub-station on New Canaan
Knopp did not respond to a request Tuesday to comment on the
proposal. NU spokesman Frank Poirot said on Tuesday that the company's
initial response to the proposal was that it found the council's
to reliability encouraging," referring to its eliminating the need to
a type of cable in the 345-kilovolt circuit the company believes might
the company needed more time from an engineering standpoint to consider
what the proposal's new route around the Bethel Educational Park would
entail before commenting on that aspect of it. At the same time,
Poirot said, the final decision on the overall project is "far from
in the council, whose members, he said, need more time to consider
the project has drawn vehement opposition, particularly from residents
in the Silvermine and Broad River areas of the city, where the new
circuit would follow an existing right-of-way adjacent to Route 7 that
already has poles 71 to 100 feet tall. "Obviously it's a lot
than 130-foot-tall poles," said Leigh Grant, president of the Norwalk
of Silvermine Homeowners, "but it's still (an overhead) 345-kilovolt
which is scary." Grant, who wants the new circuit to be entirely
said she felt health and safety issues have been "thrown away" during
planning process, adding, "I'm really concerned about (electro-magnetic
fields), and really concerned about the line breaking."
she believes NU is wedded to using overhead transmission systems, and
the money and technical experts to force their acceptance.
all along (NU) is using 19th-century technology. I think (they) sold
information to the Siting Council and they bought it." Norwalk
Rep. Robert Duff, D-137, said he advised taking a wait-and-see attitude
on the proposal. Duff, who has been actively presenting the
of residents about the power lines throughout the planning process,
the Siting Council "for acting as an independent body, as it should be."
Katz as "a pretty smart lady who wants to help Norwalk." But from
perspective, Novachek takes the opposite view. "I don't know
on earth she's coming from," said Novachek of Katz's proposal, "and I
will not stand still and say that it's going to be buried in Redding
Wilton, and it's not going to be buried here. They damn well are not
to do that." Katz said Monday she wants the council to conduct a final
vote on the project July 22.
F. COBIN, June 17, 2003 HOUR
-- Four members of the state's Siting Council announced Monday a
to modify an agreed-upon plan for running high-voltage power lines from
Bethel to Norwalk that would allow shorter support structures to be
to carry the lines through Norwalk while increasing the overall
of the project. Dubbed Configuration 20 by the council members
met as a sub-committee to develop it, the proposal also calls for
the new and existing transmission lines around the Bethel Educational
and eliminates the need for an above-to-below ground transition station
on Whittlesey Drive in that town.
It also would
eliminate the need along any portion of the 345-kilovolt circuit to use
a type of cable that the utility said is technically difficult to
and of uncertain reliability at that voltage. The proposal was
at a meeting of the full council after its members reviewed and
changes to the latest draft of the Findings of Fact about the project
by the council's staff.
20 proposal would modify Configuration X, a plan hashed out between the
project's sponsor, Northeast Utilities, and the four towns north of
the line was originally routed to travel through: Bethel, Redding,
and Wilton. Commonly referred to as the "Four Towns Agreement,"
X would eliminate the need for the 345-kilovolt circuit to go through
documentation from the Siting Council released Monday, before
20, 18 configurations had been proposed for the new transmission line,
including so-called "mix and match" configurations that varied where
by how much it would run below ground. The documentation said the
project as originally proposed by NU with an all-overhead route had an
estimated capital cost in 2002 dollars of $124 million. Each plan
that included greater and greater lengths of the circuit below ground
increased projected costs, with NU estimating Configuration X to cost
No cost was
discussed Monday to implement Configuration 20. The Siting
serves as arbiter between applicants and local interests in deciding
the infrastructure of power companies, hazardous waste generators, and
telecommunications providers may be placed. The utility intends
run 345 kV transmission lines along an existing right-of-way from
sub-station in Bethel to Norwalk sub-station on New Canaan Avenue.
Configuration X, the lines would stretch 26.6 miles. NU has
that running a high-voltage power line underground a distance of 20
or more would require greater use of cable encased in a conduit filled
with an insulating fluid under high pressure. During a public hearing
the proposed transmission line, the fluid was described as non-toxic,
remained a risk of leaking into the ground.
As an alternative,
the utility said it could use a non-fluid-insulated solid cable called
cross-linked polyethylene cable, or XLPE, but said it is of unproven
at 345 kV. Under Configuration 20, XLPE cable would be used only
for the 115 kV circuit, which the utility considers a reliable
345 kV Bethel-to-Norwalk circuit has been a target of fierce opposition
since Northeast Utilities applied to the state to install it in October
2001 because, as originally proposed, it would be strung between
monopoles. Under a plan negotiated between the utility and
Redding, Weston and Wilton announced in March, substantial portions of
the circuit would run below ground in those communities. But beginning
in Wilton, the line would rise aboveground at "Norwalk Junction," a
south of the intersection of routes 7 and 33 opposite the USA Storage
From there, it would run parallel to Route 7, suspended on
monopoles, to NU's Norwalk sub-station on New Canaan Avenue.
and at the time little publicized plan drew a storm of opposition from
Norwalk residents when they learned the city had not participated in
agreement. The height of the poles has drawn sharp opposition from
in the Silvermine and Broad River areas of the city, which border the
right-of-way with poles 71 to 100 feet tall.
From the beginning,
the issue of contention between the utility and the affected
has been over how much of the circuit must be above ground. The utility
has argued that running it underground will make it more costly and
reliable, while the communities objected to its impact on property
where it was above ground.
Configuration 20 calls for burying one of two existing aboveground 115
kV lines, along with a 27.6 kV line, leaving another aboveground 115 kV
line in place. As a result, the new 345 kV lines could be strung
structures either 90 or 108 feet tall. In Bethel, an existing 115
kV circuit that runs above ground through the Bethel Educational Park
be re-routed around the park above ground with the new 345 kV circuit.
Chairman is Pamela B. Katz, Configuration 20 was developed by the
vice chairman, Colin C. Tait, Brian J. Emerick, designee for Arthur J.
Rocque Jr., the state's commissioner of the Department of Environmental
Protection, and member Philip T. Ashton. During several straw
on Monday after Configuration 20 was announced, council members
numerous misgivings about the circuit's proposed route.
discussion on Configuration 20, Katz said it was proposed "in the
of trying to preserve the (Four Towns) settlement, and perhaps improve
upon it." Katz said she thought the council should "do something" for
"even though Norwalk didn't camp out at our door the way the other
did." Katz indicated she would not endorse Configuration 20 if it
in the four towns demanding to reopen negotiations with NU, a view not
shared by Tait, who said, "We should be influenced by the settlement,
not bound by the settlement."
a settlement. Leave it alone," said Gerald J. Heffernan, designee of
W. Downes, the chairperson of the state's Department of Public Utility
Control. Heffernan called Configuration 20 "a terrible risk"
the council did not know what was considered when the towns negotiated
with NU. In response, council member Daniel P. Lynch Jr. said the towns
"worked out a compromise. This is another compromise. If we can't tweak
this plan, why are we here?"
"I think we
started out with a Ford and ended up with a Ferrari," said council
Brian O'Neill of the range of proposals the project has elicited.
O'Neill said current technology prevents his preference of putting the
entire circuit underground, adding, "Anytime there is this much
there are going to be unknown costs. I'd be surprised if this project
in on budget." Katz said the negotiated agreement between NU and the
resulted in something that is "technically not the best solution," and
not "the best engineering." Katz said that had revisions to the route
proposed by NU been left up to the council, it would have less
the utility's term for a power line that repeatedly transitions from
to below ground.
X "has Flipper and he's brought along several of his friends," Katz
Monday's meeting concluded with Katz saying she would direct the
staff to revise the project's draft of Findings of Fact based on
the members made, and to prepare a draft Opinion, Decision and Order,
will state the council's decision on whether and how to install the new
circuit. Katz said she intended to have a vote on the Opinion,
and Order at special meeting July 22.
NU wants to
install the 345 kV circuit because southwestern Connecticut is
a "congested" area by power officials, with inadequate local generation
capability, and where the transmission lines into the area approach
during heavy summertime demands for electricity. In the past, the
cost of installing transmission lines in New England has been spread
the region's entire ratepayer base, known as "socialization." But after
2007, the cost of installing the new 345 kV transmission line could be
borne only by the ratepayers in southwestern Connecticut.
Underground mandate fails
By HAL BROWN - Hour Staff Writer,
Friday, June 6, 2003
NORWALK -- A last-minute attempt
in the legislature to mandate the burial of the Norwalk portion of the
345,000-volt Phase 1 Bethel-Norwalk power line failed after fierce
from other towns along the route of Northeast Utilities' proposed
projects. State Rep. Bob Duff, D-137, successfully attached an
last week that would have required the last five miles of the
project to be placed underground. His amendment was added to House Bill
6682, sponsored by Wallingford State Rep. Mary Fritz, D-90. Her bill
to require that Connecticut Siting Council not approve the 345-kilovolt
Phase 2 (Norwalk-Middletown) line unless it was placed underground in
residential neighborhoods and overhead in commercial and industrial
to Duff's rider came immediately
from the towns north of Norwalk on the Phase 1 line -- Bethel, Redding,
Wilton and Weston. "We all had concerns, those of us that have
involved in this (Phase 1 controversy) from Day One, in terms of the
reached by my towns, that this would upset the entire apple cart should
(Duff's amendment) go through," said state Sen. Judith Freedman, R-26.
"I think it was a threat to everybody who came to the table and made
agreement." That so-called "Four Towns" agreement placed the
line underground for more than half the distance in the Phase 1
Near the Wilton-Norwalk line, however, Northeast Utilities proposes to
string the line on 130-foot overhead power poles. Northeast Utilities
the four municipalities announced the agreement in late March.
Mayor Alex Knopp has since
criticized the agreement, saying Northeast Utilities misled the city
available technologies and that the city was surprised by the agreement
between the four towns and NU because those talks were protected by a
agreement that prevented discussing the negotiations. Knopp
that although Norwalk was not a party to the agreement, he had sought
from NU that it would not extend high voltage lines across Norwalk to
"Phase 3," a projected line from the Manresa Island power plant to Long
Island to sell electricity to the Long Island market.
a Siting Council hearing on the
Phase 1 compromise last month, Knopp argued that Norwalk's portion
be placed underground. The Siting Council in effect told Norwalk
and NU to work out their differences and return to the council with a
and that it would issue a ruling only if the differences could not be
out. Duff's amendment sought to legislatively mandate burial of
line. State Rep. Lawrence Cafero, R-142, said that although the
passed the House, representatives knew it would have difficulties in
Senate. Representatives from Phase 1 communities were afraid the
would affect their already-negotiated agreement, he said, while
from Phase 2 communities did not want a provision regarding Phase 1 to
clutter up a bill that was aimed at the Phase 2 project.
Other objections, he said, came
from legislators who said the legislature was trying to preempt the
Council's authority to dictate the placement of power lines and other
In the interim between Friday and Wednesday, 29 amendments were offered
to the bill. All those were stripped out, along with Duff's amendment,
and the bill was presented the House at 11:50 p.m. Wednesday.
was the compromise that the
chairs and ranking members of the committees put together that they
would get everybody's approval, which basically it did," Freedman
The resulting bill now says basically what it originally did before the
amendments. It said that there is "a rebuttable presumption" that
of the Phase 2 line in residential areas that are buried meet "a public
benefit." Portions of the line in commercial and industrial areas, the
bill said, are presumed to meet "a public need." In regulatory terms a
"public need" is sometimes considered a more difficult proposition to
than is a "public benefit." Freedman said the effect is to set a lower
standard for proponents of burying the line.
was pretty much the explanation
we received on the floor, so that made sense to me," she said. "It
have any impact on any of the agreement that have already been made,
from my vantage point was very important." For Norwalk residents
to power lines in their neighborhoods, the outlook is unclear.
said the passage of the bill prejudices negotiations with Northeast
over the Norwalk portion of the phase1 345kVproject.
don't have to give in to anything,"
he said. Northeast Utilities corporate spokesman Frank Poirot
the company isn't sure what the legislation will mean. "We should
have a clearer idea of what it says tomorrow (Friday)," he said. "We
know what impact it would have on Phase 1, which is really in the
Council's hands right now." As for the difference between "public need"
and "public benefit" for Phase 2, NU doesn't think there is a
he said. "We're still trying to figure out if (underground
is mandated or strongly recommended," he said. "We'll probably know
tomorrow after we've had a chance to look at it some more."
Electricity Legislation Headed
Rowland's Desk; House Approves Bill Aimed At Creating Competitive
By MICHAEL COSTANZA, New London
DAY Staff Writer
Published on 5/28/2003
Hartford — The state House of Representatives
approved legislation Tuesday that will set a higher price cap for the
of electricity, sending the measure to Gov. John G. Rowland, who
to sign it.
proposal, which cleared the Senate
last week, will mean bigger electric bills for most Connecticut
who on average are likely to pay at least $5 or $6 more per month per
Supporters argue that it will protect consumers from much more drastic
price spikes, however, while raising prices enough to attract new
and creating the competitive market that lawmakers envisioned when they
first deregulated the
state's electric industry in 1998.
don't expect competition to develop
overnight ... certainly not in the attention span of this legislature,”
said state Rep. Terry Backer, D-Stratford, who crafted the new bill
Sen. Melodie Peters, D-Waterford. But Backer said the bill improves the
1998 law, ensures that the
state's utilities can remain in
business, and sets new standards to promote the use of renewable energy
sources to protect the environment.
bill caps rates at 1996 levels,
an increase of about 10 percent, until Jan. 1, 2007. The current cap,
as the standard offer, is set to expire at the end of this year.
advocates have predicted that electric rates will jump dramatically
a new cap in place. Lawmakers say the state needs to increase the
cap because it was set too low in 1998. New suppliers have been
to match the standard-offer rate and still make a profit, making it
impossible for a competitive market to emerge. A few companies have
the market but dropped out, leaving Northeast Utilities and United
as the state's dominant suppliers.
House passed the bill Tuesday
on a vote of 121 to 25 after nearly four hours of debate. Critics
to eliminate some of the extra fees that utilities will receive, extend
the standard offer for residential customers, and set smaller rate
tied to the consumer price index, but all amendments failed by wide
would never have passed any bill
(in 1998) if the companies didn't agree to it,” said state Rep. Vickie
Nardello, D-Prospect, who led the House effort to defeat the rate
“They are now asking us to pay them more money for what they agreed to
do in 1998.” Nardello and other opponents argued that many
residential customers could actually end up paying about $16 more each
month, with increases possibly topping 20 percent after counting
from federal mandates. She complained that lawmakers have flip-flopped
the purpose of the 1998 law. “Wasn't our goal to lower prices by
competition,” she asked rhetorically, “or was it to generate
by increasing prices?”
supporters of the legislation
warned that Connecticut could face an energy crisis increase if it
rates artificially low and forces utilities to operate at a loss as
costs increase. “The real question is not what are the utilities
getting out of this bill,” said Rep. Kevin DelGobbo, R-Naugatuck. “The
real question is what are the ratepayers getting out of this bill. It
fundamentally in the best interests of ratepayers to ensure the
of these suppliers. These utilities are not companies like Joe's
down the street, where if it goes under, we just go to Home Depot
Utility companies are the tires on which Connecticut's economy rolls
is the ranking member of
the legislature's Energy and Technology Committee, of which Peters and
Backer are co-chairmen. The committee leaders negotiated the new
over the last 18 months with consumer advocates, retail and wholesale
providers and federal regulators. Backer highlighted provisions
the bill that are meant to clean up Connecticut's air and protect the
The measures include a plan to gradually increase the state's
of electricity drawn from renewable, clean energy sources —such as
solar and hydropower — from one-half of a percent to 10 percent by
Critics have complained that the 1998 law set impossibly high
for so-called green
spokeswoman, Michele Sullivan,
said the governor would likely sign the bill on Monday. “He believes it
contains a good balance of protections for consumers as well as the
industry,” she said. Only three Republicans voted against the
Tuesday, along with 22 Democrats. One of the Republicans, Rep. Diana
R-North Stonington, said she believed the rate increase would pose too
much of a financial burden on small businesses, the elderly and other
on fixed incomes.
Rep. Michael Caron, R-Danielson,
said the state should deregulate the electric industry altogether and
the price controls to spur competition and ultimately bring prices
“Artificial price caps encourage waste and reduce conservation,” Caron
said, and hurt the environment by making it financially difficult for
power suppliers to do business in Connecticut.
Electricity Competition Bill
By State Senate; Price-control Measure Would Impact Consumers
By MICHAEL COSTANZA, New London
Day Staff Writer
Published on 5/27/2003
— Consumers would pay more
for electricity under legislation that passed the state Senate last
and heads to the House of Representatives today. The bill is intended
improve upon the 1998 deregulation law that failed to create
The new legislation is intended to protect consumers from drastic price
spikes, while increasing price caps enough to generate competition.
changes would add about $5 or
$6 to the average consumer's monthly bill. The state Senate voted 33-2
last week to approve the plan. Besides controlling electricity
the proposal is meant to clean up Connecticut's air by requiring
over the next several years to draw more energy from renewable sources,
such as fuel cells, solar power and wind. The plan is the result
of 18 months of negotiations among legislators, consumer advocates,
and wholesale electricity providers and federal regulators.
our hope that this will turn
the electricity market around the same way competition turned around
long-distance rates,” said state Sen. Melodie Peters, D-Waterford, the
chief architect of the 1998 deregulation law and this year's changes.
more competitive the market becomes, the lower the rates will be.”
have made it a priority
to pass the legislation before they adjourn June 4, because the price
put in place in 1998 will expire at the end of this year. The new plan
calls for raising the rate cap about 10 percent. The new cap would
in place through the end of 2006. "We need to increase those
in order for the market to be viable, but to make sure they (utilities)
don't go hog wild, we're capping the rates,” Peters said. The
are supposed to make right what the 1998 act got wrong.
deregulation law divided the
generation, transmission and sale of electricity into separate
forcing utilities to sell their power plants. Lawmakers hoped new
would enter the market and electricity prices would drop as a result of
competition. For consumers who didn't choose a new supplier, the
law required large companies — such as Northeast Utilities and United
— to provide electricity at a "standard offer” rate, which the state
at 10 percent below the rates charged in 1996, thus guaranteeing
price controls stifled the new
market, however, and lawmakers now concede that they set the rate too
Suppliers have been unable to beat, or even match, the standard-offer
and still make a profit. A few companies, such as the Connecticut
Energy Cooperative and Green Mountain Energy Co., entered the market
soon dropped out. Those two companies had hoped to attract consumers by
promising to supply electricity only from environmentally friendly,
sources. “Unfortunately, we set the standard offer so low they
couldn't compete,” Peters said. “Especially if they were buying
energy, which tends to be more expensive.”
allowing the 10 percent increase,
the new plan effectively caps rates at 1996 levels. Supporters
the higher cap will lure new suppliers into the market and help keep
suppliers in business while protecting the state's nearly 1.5 million
from “sticker shock” in the meantime.
allows a balance. It lets the
distribution companies make the investments we need to ensure a safe
reliable infrastructure, while mitigating any dramatic price increase
consumers,” said Chris Riley, spokesman for Connecticut Light &
the largest subsidiary of Northeast Utilities. The company distributes
electricity to more than 1 million customers in 149 cities and
A typical consumer with a monthly bill of 500 kilowatt-hours, which
around $61, should end up paying about $6.25 more, Riley said.
new law does not directly impact municipal utilities, which remain
from the deregulation legislation. There are municipally operated
utilities in the City of Groton, Jewett City, Bozrah and Norwich.
Consumer advocates are not thrilled with the extra fees that the
would earn, but they support the overall proposal nonetheless.
think it's a good bill,” said
Bruce Johnson, litigation attorney for the state Office of Consumer
which works specifically on utility issues. “It has a lot of
in it, not only with rate-relief goals, but also for the
The environmental measures include a plan to gradually increase
proportion of renewable, clean energy sources, such as wind, solar and
hydropower. Critics have complained that the 1998 law set
high requirements for the amount of electricity that suppliers had to
from green sources, so this year's
legislation reduces the levels —
requirement starts at half a
percent and rises to 10 percent by 2009, said state Rep. Terry Backer,
D-Stratford, who serves with Peters as co-chairman of the legislature's
Energy and Technology Committee. The gradual increase in clean
of electricity is intended to reduce Connecticut's dependence on oil
gas. “We have some of the worst air in the country,” Backer
Both Backer and Peters expect the House to approve the legislation
sending it to Gov. John G. Rowland, but the debate there will probably
contain a bit more drama than in the Senate.
“The House has some more liberal
members who feel the distribution companies should get nothing,” Peters
said. “But you can't do that and expect them to have the resources they
need to keep the lights on.”
September 10, 2003 DAY:
Blast Change In Rules On Factory Pollution. In Groton, They Say
Clean-air Commitment Violated
from New England states and eastern Canadian provinces sharply
the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, saying that a recent
change by the Bush administration violates a commitment made by the two
countries to clean up the air and will allow older factories to
spewing dangerous pollutants that contaminate
At the Conference
of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, held at the
Marriott, all six New England governors and five Canadian premiers
a resolution calling for the Bush administration to change its stance
the rule change announced two weeks ago. The change will allow older
plants to upgrade their facilities without adding pollution controls
by the Clean Air Act.
we're concerned this is a backward step,” said Jean Charest, the
of the province of Quebec, who added he believed the rule change was a
“backing away” from the two countries' commitments to controlling
air pollution. Gov. John G. Rowland, co-chairman of the two-day
said the rule change was of great concern to all the northeastern
and their attorneys general. “We are all very disappointed with the
decision of two weeks ago,” Rowland said.
As much as
50 percent of the Northeast's air quality problems stem from older,
plants in the Midwest, particularly the Ohio River Valley, which belch
the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that lead to acid rain and
If those plants, and others, are allowed to operate without adding
controls, northeastern efforts to clean up the air will be useless,
Chris Recchia, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Ozone
Commission, emissions from “point sources” like
power plants have been reduced by 60 percent in New England through
programs. But, Recchia said, “we are running out of tools and last
announcement by the Bush administration to minimize the ... rules will
further exacerbate the situation.”
When the Clean
Air Act was adopted in the early 1970s, lawmakers exempted older power
plants from new emissions standards, assuming those plants
would eventually cease operations. Instead, plants continued to
extending their operations without complying with the federal rules. To
combat this, in 1977, the so-called New Source Review Provision was
to a newly updated Clean Air Act, which said that older plants had to
new pollution controls when they upgraded but not when they conducted
announced two weeks ago by the Bush administration expands the
of routine maintenance by saying power plants can spend 20 percent of
cost of the main generating unit, called a “process unit,” of the plant
to replace other equipment. That means, critics say, that as many
as 17,000 old power plants can each spend millions of dollars extending
their operations without adding pollution controls.
The EPA, however,
says the re-definition of the equipment replacement provision will
power plants to more efficiently control pollution on their own.
Attorneys general from New York and Connecticut say they plan to
the rule, and have filed lawsuits challenging previous changes to the
Source Provision. “This resolution is highly significant as
an official bipartisan repudiation of the Bush administration's
policies in support of our fight in court,” said Connecticut Attorney
Richard Blumenthal in a statement Tuesday. “This united front by all
Englanders sends a message: We will not surrender. We will confront and
defeat the administration's dictatorial edict illegally gutting the law
and inflicting death and disease on our citizens. This historic
should give the administration a solid jolt of legal and political
Tuesday they hoped the resolution will prompt the administration to
the rule change before the lawsuits progress. “It really is a
statement,” said Brooke Suter of the Connecticut Climate
“I think the message is that the governors and premiers (whose states
provinces) are greatly affected by this air pollution are not going to
stand for a weakening of the laws that should be there to protect the
We would hope that this signal would encourage other governors in the
to similarly stand up for the health of their citizens.”
adopted Tuesday also calls on the EPA to “uphold the spirit and the
of the Clean Air Agreement between Canada and the United States.”
That agreement, signed in 1990, committed both countries to controlling
Ills Dominate Governors' Discussion; New England, Canadian
GUSTIN, Tuesday, September 9, 2003 DAY:
England and Canadian leaders and power industry executives, who met at
a governors' conference here Monday, said the region's chronically
transmission grid badly needs expansion and enforceable, regionwide
of the New England states and the premiers of eastern Canadian
are meeting at the Mystic Marriott Hotel for
annual three-day conference. They heard Monday that while the
region has ample power from a range of generation sources throughout
New England states, New York and Canada, bottlenecks in the
lines prevent power from reliably reaching areas where the demand is
Those include southwestern Connecticut, which lost power during the
“It's a very
weak, stretched system,” said Stephen G. Whitley, vice president and
operating officer of ISO-New England, the company that manages the New
England power grid. “In Connecticut we drastically need more
if we can get it.” In fact, leaders pointed out, some power
in New England are facing bankruptcy because the power they generate
no place to go. Yet in southwestern Connecticut, older, inefficient and
polluting generators still need to operate to serve customers there
insufficient lines bring in power from elsewhere.
"If you can't
get it out on the system,” Whitley said, “you may as well not have
The goal of deregulating the power industry, a process that began in
1990s, was to enhance supply reliability by interconnecting power
in different states and Canadian provinces, as well as to bring costs
for the consumers.
But the newly
interconnected system and the competitive marketplace have flooded an
transmission system with more power than it can reasonably handle,
the flow of inexpensive, cleaner power to consumers.
experts say, the industry is not required to adhere to standardized
creating inconsistencies from place to place. “Reliability
must become mandatory,” said Gordon van Welie, the president and chief
executive of ISO New England, adding that there should be penalties for
companies that fail to meet the rules.
to making deregulation successful is to have adequate infrastructure,”
van Welie said at Monday's conference. “The other thing is to
market rules.” Welie and others also stressed the need to remove
barriers to improving the transmission system. In Connecticut, for
the construction of two high-voltage cables needed to pipe power into
County has stalled because local communities don't want the cable
through their towns. Welie said he believes states should have control
over siting approval for these lines, but that a centralized,
should also have some leverage if the states can't see the projects
on their own.
“We are having
an awful lot of trouble siting transmission lines,” said David
of Northeast Utilities, noting that
Connecticut, which has the weakest part of the grid, uses 50 percent of
the state's energy consumption. Boguslawski said that in order
address the problem, the federal government should get involved,
New England leaders are hoping to avoid.
in attendance at Monday's conference said they had ample power to
exporting it to New England for now. “We have more energy
than all of New England and the maritimes combined,” said Jean Charest,
the premier of the Quebec province. But, he said, the province will
capacity in 2005.
In the meantime,
industry members said, at this point in the deregulation process,
throughout the Northeast need to be synchronized. “We
are all interconnected as part of a system,” said Boguslawski. “But
has some ramifications... Sometimes the rules don't match the system.”
CL&P surges ahead
with power line plan
By Louis Porter,
Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
Connecticut Light & Power is moving ahead with a new power
line from Norwalk to Stamford that would bring more electricity to
project would consist of two 115-kilovolt lines that would run side by
side from the power substation on Norwalk's New Canaan Avenue to a
on Hamilton Avenue in Stamford's Glenbrook neighborhood.
month, the power company met with the first selectman and mayors of the
towns through which the line would run and would talk to more elected
in coming months. Public hearings may be held in the next two months,
which the company would present plans to the Connecticut Siting Council.
hopes to start work on the project in 2006 and complete it in the
year, said Frank Poirot, a CL&P spokesman. It is likely to be
less controversial than CL&P's proposed 345-kilovolt line from
to the Norwalk substation because the Stamford line is smaller and
the path of the transmission line -- installation of which is likely to
result in closed roads and traffic delays -- may pit the interests of
four municipalities. The power line would either run to the north
New Canaan and Stamford or south through a large chunk of Norwalk and
route would run alongside Route 123, across Farm Road and down Route
through Stamford. "Our preferred route is the southern route,"
Democratic Mayor Dannel Malloy said. "We are looking at what is the
disruptive to the Stamford community."
To have Hope
Street, a major throughway, tied up in construction would be a
for Stamford, Malloy said.
First Selectman Judy Neville of New Canaan agreed. "Our
is obviously the southern route because we want to keep it out of New
she said. To run the line through her town would add to its
as well as mean construction on narrow roads, Neville said. It's
the power line would be connected to the New Canaan substation, but if
it were, that may make the northern route attractive.
connecting New Canaan is a possibility, but no decision has been
The new power connection also would help reliability throughout the
by stabilizing the power grid, he said.
possible route would run farther south along Norwalk's Connecticut
and the Post Road through Darien. That would be terrible for Norwalk,
Mayor Alex Knopp said. Norwalk would already have to deal with the
from the Bethel to Norwalk line and a second phase of the power
project that would install a 345-kilovolt line from Norwalk to
effect of these massive construction projects at the same time would be
a substantial disruption of business and traffic along Norwalk's two
business corridors, Knopp said.
some special consideration" because it would already be the site of
line construction, he said. "Our part of the state needs to
its electric system and everyone will have to play a role," Malloy
Stamford has dealt with such problems, including the recent upgrade of
the Glenbrook substation, which the power line from Norwalk would feed
Selectwoman Evonne Klein also would prefer the power line run through
Canaan, rather than along the Post Road. "Darien is happy to do
part," she said. "We need to look out for our town and how this project
will affect Darien."
When an accident
stops cars on Interstate 95, traffic streams through Darien on the Post
Road, she said. Having CL&P burying a large power line next to or
the road would make it that much worse, Klein said. A bridge
project is slated for the interstate overpass for the next few
That, combined with the power project, could tie up traffic in the
of town, she said.
to Stamford line, whatever route is chosen, almost would certainly be
controversial than the Bethel to Norwalk line, said Robert Forrester, a
founder of the Woodlands Coalition, which opposed some aspects of the
agrees that southwestern Connecticut needs more power. And by burying
line, the risk of diminished property values and the fear over possible
health problems from overhead lines are reduced, he said.
"I don't think
they will get much opposition," Forrester said.
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