JCV Calls For Transparency at CTUB
Dear Mr. CTUB Chairman,
In anticipation of the Charles Town Utility Board Meeting on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 Jefferson County Vision reviewed the Meeting Agenda Packet posted on Friday, March 8. Key topics and several recent, important documents that are critical for proper consideration of the Route 9 Sewer Project were not included in the packet as of 5:00 pm on March 8, 2019.
As CTUB’s decision-making has impacts across the county and for generations to come, the public and our organization insist that CTUB decision making is transparent and consistent with West Virginia ethics and open meetings laws. We are concerned that CTUB staff has habits and practices that may not provide the CTUB Board, the Charles Town City Council, state regulators, and the public with complete and timely information. Both CTUB leadership and the public deserve a clear and transparent process, in which decision makers are well informed by those they depend on to provide information.
Delay of CTCC Ordinance vote due to confusion between DEP Permit and PSC guidance on industrial waste.
The modification for NPDES permit #WV002349, including the Modification Correspondence and Responsiveness Summary, were presented at the CTCC meeting on March 4, 2019. The Responsiveness Summary, specifically #14 which states that CTUB is not required to take industrial waste from Rockwool, caused significant confusion and discussion at the City Council as this DEP advice contradicts the Public Service Commission guidance described by CTUB staff and lawyers at past CTUB and CTCC meetings.
CTUB’s lawyers Hoy Shingleton and Steptoe & Johnson Environmental lawyer, Richard Lewis, have stated that the utility is obligated to take the industrial waste under the PSC Rules (150CSR5 section 5.5). At the January 7, 2019, CTCC meeting Councilmembers Trainor and Paonessa asked Assistant Utility Manager Kristen Stolipher to clarify whether or not the utility had to take industrial waste. Ms. Stolipher returned the next meeting and told CTCC that she had spoken to a senior, unnamed PSC staff member and he or she had said stated CTUB had to take the industrial waste. It did not appear that Ms. Stolipher provided a document to confirm to the City Council that she contacted and received advice from the PSC.
After much discussion on March 4, 2019, City Council tabled the Sewer Ordinance vote pending clarification of the PSC-DEP contradiction. City Council requested that CTUB Staff contact PSC, request specific guidance on the matter and report back to CTCC.
It appears that the events of CTCC on March 4, 2019, including the delay of the Ordinance vote, and the confusion regarding DEP and PSC guidance on industrial waste, will not be discussed at the CTUB meeting, as this item is not listed on the meeting agenda. This is a critical update on the Route 9 sewer project, why isn’t it included on the agenda? Will staff be providing a “Manager’s Update”? Will the chairman be providing an update? Again, these agenda items are not listed on the agenda.
How can the public be sure that the CTUB Board is being kept well informed when the meetings prepared by its staff are incomplete and missing critical information?
We request a response as to whether this important topic will be covered at the March 13, 2019 CTUB meeting and how it will be presented.
WV NPDES Permit #WV002349 Modification #8
The DEP permit Modification Correspondence and Responsiveness Summary was not included in the CTUB meeting packet for the March 13 meeting. According to Charles Town Administrative Code and the West Virginia Open Meetings Act, all materials must be included in the agenda by 5:00 pm 3 days prior to the meeting. Are we to assume that this document, critical to understanding the delay in Charles Town City Council, will not be discussed with the Board Members? Beyond the delay from CTCC, this permit modification is critical for the Board to acknowledge and understand, as it supplies information that should inform the Board’s future decision-making for the entire sewer system. There are implications for system capacity issues, and possible Clean Water Act violations occurring in Evitts Run, among other issues.
The CTUB Board is tasked with the responsibility to make important decisions that will affect Charles Town residents and citizens countywide for decades to come. How can the Board make informed decisions if they aren’t provided with pertinent information that they can use, discuss, and make decisions with at meetings?
We request that the WV NPDES Permit #WV002349 Modification #8 Correspondence and Responsiveness Summary be added to the CTUB Meeting packet for March 13, 2019. Please alert us when this has been done.
PSC Guidance on Industrial Waste
CTCC requested that CTUB staff contact PSC and request “guidance” on the discrepancy between DEP’s Responsiveness Summary Question #14’s assertion that CTUB is not required to take industrial waste and CTUB’s insistence that PSC requires them to accept industrial waste.
Will the PSC guidance be discussed by the Board members at the March 13th meeting? It seems that this would be an important consideration for the board, yet it is not included on the agenda. This would be the Board’s only opportunity to discuss the PSC guidance before it is (assumedly) presented to the CTCC next Monday.
It stands to reason that the CTUB board should read, discuss, and vote on how to move forward with the contradiction between DEP and PSC, BEFORE any advice is relayed to the CTCC. It is also reasonable to insist that a written memo or letter from PSC be provided for CTUB, CTCC and public review, to avoid the difficult situation in which Ms. Stolipher’s past interactions with PSC can’t be confirmed and as they have not been in written form, the pubic is unable to review the content.
We request an update on the status of the PSC guidance. Has CTUB staff made the request to the PSC? When will this written request, and any response from PSC, be made available to the public? Most importantly, will this information be discussed at the next CTUB meeting?
We understand that our ability to demand that actions and documents be considered in any meeting is limited. However, the intense public interest and county-altering nature of the project should provoke all local government entities to be more transparent. Unfortunately, it appears from the CTUB meeting agenda for March 13, 2019, that CTUB and its staff are choosing to be less transparent and purposefully evasive when is comes to addressing important issues, such as the DEP-PSC industrial waste contradiction.
The public deserves to have these issues discussed and debated openly and with fully informed decision makers. We ask you, Mr. Chairman, to do all you can to make the CTUB Meeting on March 13, 2019 a meaningful meeting at which timely and important issues are discussed by Board members.
Secretary, Jefferson County Vision