07/15/2011

WG3: January 18th, 2011 Minutes

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Water Infrastructure Finance Commission
Working Group Three
Approved minutes: January 18, 2011

In a meeting duly posted, Working Group Three (innovative water systems, technologies, and infrastructure) convened at approximately 2:30 in Room 210 at the State House.

Members Attending:  Ned Bartlett, Chair; Becky Smith, Robert Zimmerman, Dave Terry, Bruce Tobey, Patty Daley (for Paul Niedzwiecki), Martin Pillsbury

Also attending:  Leah Robins, Brendan Jarboe, Justine Hill (Northeast Utilities) John Clarkeson (EEA)

Mr. Bartlett introduced the meeting by reminding members of the document that had been distributed.  This document provides a framework for evaluating new technologies.  Our section of the report will also include an introduction/preamble, and a section on Risk Management.

Mr. Jarboe urged the committee to think about FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS and not limit itself to only those issues where consensus has emerged on a solution if a problem is agreed to be significant enough to warrant the full commission’s analysis.

Ms. Smith noted that the risk management section should mention examples of successful innovative projects.

Mr. Terry indicated that DEP is working on a list of Best Practices.

Mr. Bartlett indicated that one finding might be that we need to have a single, clear, and simple way to approve alternative technologies.  Right now we have too many layers of jurisdiction.

Mr. Zimmerman noted that with current cuts to DEP, we lack the personnel to do full permit reviews.  The group agreed that having well funded state agencies that can complete timely permit reviews is a necessary element of a functioning water infrastructure system.

The Commission discussed whether there are things that can be approved presumptively if a more robust alternatives analysis process were followed.

Can we reward true alternatives analysis and better permit applications?

Ms. Smith suggested a bill to require alternatives analysis to be done by a third party.  The group agreed to find the legislation and examine it.

How do we achieve all the following goals at once?

  • Steamlining of approvals,
  • moving towards more sustainable projects,
  • reducing the time spent in seeking approvals.
  • Reviews still need to be thorough

The current review process can take years and cost a lot of money.

Perhaps we need to suggest a toolbox of technologies – including for reclaimed and reused water, alternative energy, wellhead protection, etc.  And then suggest criteria.

The big picture goals include keeping water local, sustainability, reducing cost, conflicts.

Take a look at the Pennsylvania report, that deals with these in a good way.

Other issues:

  • Current regulations
  • Home rule balkanizes decisions
  • There are unintended consequences to the use of Title V
  • DEP can trump local bylaws
  • Lack of DEP manpower
  • Funding for environmental agencies should be a priority
  • Primacy

Note that if we consider taking back primacy, we will need to fund that, perhaps through an assessment on consumed water?

There was a discussion on using a surcharge on water usage as a source of funds for statewide water infrastructure programs.  Depending on how you set the rate and whether you charge for both water and sewer service, the revenues could be between 80 and 200 million per year.

The distribution formula for these funds would be tricky.  If the funds are distributed directly, there would need to be a formula, and it will need to be fair.  How can that be done?

There was some agreement that setting a range for rates based on the economic health of a community might not be a bad idea.

It was also agreed that one of the commission’s recommendations could be that a formal study answer the questions about the difference in lifetime cost between green and sustainable infrastructure and simply rebuilding and maintaining our current infrastructure.

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