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Friday, August 19, 2011

Jepsen: Town will benefit from Covanta settlement

As published in the Record Journal Thursday August 18, 2011

By Robert Cyr
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

— State Attorney General George Jepsen told an audience at the Democratic Town Committee meeting Wednesday night that the town may benefit in some way through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection from a recent settlement with Covanta Energy over dioxin emissions last year. “As you might guess, we’re under a lot of pressure from the Malloy administration to put as much money as possible into the general fund,” he said. “Our lawyers wanted $200,000 to go to Wallingford and it turns out it’s hard to write a settlement that is so narrowly focused, and the DEP, as a matter of discretion, will be focusing on Wallingford.”

The trash-to-energy plant on South Cherry Street was ordered to pay the state a $400,000 fine stemming from high dioxin levels in one of its operating stacks last summer. Former Attorney General Richard Blumenthal brought the suit against Covanta on behalf of the DEP.
Town Councilor Vincent Testa Jr., who is running for Mayor, told Jepsen the council had recently voted to authorize Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. to send the DEP a letter requesting that Wallingford be considered to receive part of the settlement. “Since it happened in Wallingford, Wallingford should benefit from that fund,” he said. “It was also suggested that we ask for the whole $400,000.”

Committee Chairman Vincent Avallone, who had requested Jepsen’s presence at the meeting to answer questions about the Covanta suit, said the recent court ruling differed from other cases in which the company violated emissions standards and were only sued. This was the first instance of an enforceable court ruling, with stiff penalties for future violations.

“Covanta now sees this and they’re on their toes,” he said. “The penalties get worse and worse.”

According to the suit brought by the state, the plant was fully operational after officials discovered on May 27 that a stack was emitting more than twice the allowed limit of dioxin. The stack remained in use until Covanta shut it down. The lawsuit called for Covanta to pay a fine of $25,000 for every day the stack remained in use.

Under terms of the settlement filed last month in Hartford Superior Court, the company will pay $200,000 to the state treasurer and $200,000 to DEEP for a project to enhance environmental protection or conserve natural resources. They will also be held to more strict emissions standards for the next three years.

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