CNMI UTILITY AUTHORIZED TO BORROW $10 MILLION

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Funds to be used for federally mandated improvements

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 5, 2011) – Acting Gov. Eloy S. Inos signed into law last Thursday a measure allowing the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. to borrow up to $10 million so it can fund the projects required by federally stipulated orders.

Introduced by Rep. Stanley T. Torres, Ind.-Saipan, House Bill 17-205 is now Public Law 17-62.

It authorizes CUC to borrow the money from Independence Bank of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, with an assurance from CUC officials that the public will not carry the burden of paying for it in the future through higher power rates.

Some lawmakers doubt this, saying the dwindling number of consumers will leave CUC no other source of funds but rate hikes.

According to Torres, "Failure to meet the requirements of the federal court orders could subject CUC and the CNMI to substantial fines and charges, and, in the extreme, to a federal receivership of CUC’s finances and operations."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed civil action against CUC for its failure to comply with the Clean Air and Safe Drinking Acts.

The federally stipulated orders require CUC to create a new management and financial system as well as address the lack of infrastructure for safe fuel storage, the handling and transfer of power generation facilities and power distribution including possible environmental site cleanups.

Tinian law

Inos also signed House Local Bill 17-46 which appropriates $35,000 in developer infrastructure tax to the Tinian mayor’s office and the Department of Public Works on the island.

Authored by Rep. Trenton B. Conner, R-Tinian, Tinian Local Law 17-9 will allow the two agencies to use the money for the repair of unpaved roads in Marpo, Marpo Heights II and Carolinas.

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