Representatives from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA), a trash agency responsible for waste management in more than 50 Connecticut municipalities, said they're facing a $7.6 million budget gap for the next three fiscal years. The gap was revealed to members of a state task force on Tuesday. The reveal comes on the heels of a state-sponsored audit of CRRA released earlier this month that projects a much bigger shortfall: around $23 million.
CRRA burns tons of waste each year at its Hartford facility. It sells that energy back to the grid. But as natural gas becomes more available, electrical rates have declined.
CRRA President Thomas Kirk presented a draft of the company's "transition plan" to the state's Resources Recovery Task Force. He said falling electricity prices are one reason for the company's financial issues, and that one way to close the revenue gap would be to extend the same energy credits that benefit wind and solar power suppliers to the CRRA. But he admitted it's a hard sell.
"The specter of trash to energy as a benefit to the environment is a hard swallow because environmentalists tend to see, and not incorrectly so, smokestacks as something we want to avoid," Kirk said. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection sees it that way too. Last year, DEEP commissioner Dan Esty spoke out against extending renewable energy credits to the trash agency.
Another financial issue is salaries. CRRA currently employs more than 40 workers. The state audit said compensation for the agency's senior management was higher compared to peer groups in the private sector, but Kirk said the agency is looking for ways to economize. "We are run just like every other business, only we have the additional pressure of public ownership, and first selectmen who have very sharp pencils," Kirk said.
The final draft of the trash agency's transition plan is due at the end of the month.