By Gregory B. Hladky
2:39 PM EDT, June 21, 2012
In a story posted this week about ex-governor-ex-con-turned-radio-jock John Rowland and his declaration that the New Britain-Hartford Busway is a boondoggle, we cited some of the Rowland administration’s biggest boondogglish scandals.
One of those was the $220 million debacle involving the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority and the now-defunct oil giant Enron. The story incorrectly said the state had recovered $111 million of that money. That was just the first installment and later legal actions resulted in a total recovery of $150 million.
Here’s a letter from CRRA’s spokesman, Paul Nonnenmacher, explaining all about it:
In the piece you posted yesterday on the Rowland situation, I recognize that you had to drag the tired old Enron horse out of the barn for its 10th-anniversary flogging.
However, saying “while the state eventually recovered $111 million from that disaster, the scandal launched the quasi-state CRRA on a downward plunge that now seems irreversible” ignores a number of facts:
—Our bankruptcy lawsuits against Enron and all those involved in the Enron deal have brought back more than $150 million to date. There are still suits pending against a group of banks involved in the deal.
—While the legislature authorized us to borrow $115 million from the state to tide us over, we only needed to borrow $21.5 million. And we repaid that more than four years ago (see attached).
—Not one nickel from the state treasury was ever lost in this deal.
—In 2002 the governor’s advisory panel on CRRA, chaired by Bill Cibes, recommended raising disposal fees $4 per year for six years, which would have brought the disposal fee at $81 per ton by FY 2010. As you can see on this chart, the actual disposal fees never broke $70 and are now tracking well below the inflation-adjusted 2002 fee.
—None of the CRRA people who were involved with the Enron deal, either board members or management, were with CRRA past 2002. That was when the legislature created a new board, which in turn hired a new management team. At minimum, you should acknowledge the change in administration.
—CRRA was, admittedly, the poster child for political scandal. Nevertheless, as long-term contracts with our customer towns have expired 71 percent of them have signed new long-term contracts with CRRA, despite the bevy of private-sector alternatives that did not exist when those original contracts were signed. Most businesses would be thrilled to have that retention rate. More importantly, all those mayors and first selectmen who are signing those new contracts would appear satisfied that not only was your “downward plunge” indeed reversed, it’s also ancient history.
I understand that the dynamics of online media demand speed. But it’s unfair to CRRA (and your readers) to simply splatter CRRA with the old paint without at least acknowledging the new paint you’re splattering.
Director of Public Affairs
Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority
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