AEA announces “Protect Your Network” Cybersecurity Event

Posted on: August 9th, 2019 by eric

Protect Your Network 

AEA IT Committee Cybersecurity Event

September 17, 2019 at the Brick Township MUA 

This event seeks to equip attendees with the knowledge and skills needed to understand cybersecurity resiliency, security for your network, surviving / preventing attacks and more. 

• Gain an understanding of cybersecurity resiliency 

• How to prepare for a cyber incident 

• How to recover from a cyber attack 

• Case study experiences of real-life cyber incidents 

• Learn about Next-Gen Cyber-Network Technology 

Download the flier or

Register at this link

Registrations Now Open for the 2019 AEA Annual Conference

Posted on: August 2nd, 2019 by eric

Registrations Are Now Open for the 2019 AEA Annual Conference

November 19 – 20, Bally’s Atlantic City

The theme of the conference is “The Next Decade.” Speakers already confirmed include Melanie Walter, Director of the Department of Community Affairs Division of Local Government Services and Dan Kennedy, Director, Environmental & Utility Operations for the Utility & Transportation Contractors Association and former assistant commissioner at the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

Conference Schedule
Registration Form

Online Registration
Bally’s Reservation (Cut-off date is Nov. 1)

  

Early Bird Sponsorship for AEA Fall Conference

 AEA is offering sponsors an “early bird” option this year: Commit to a sponsorship of greater than $500 in value by Aug. 30 and get a 15 percent discount. We will be circulating information about this soon – but if you want to find out more now, just call 609-584-1877.

Early Bird Sponsorship

Online Registration Form

A Call For Proposals

Speaking opportunities for the November conference still available! AEA is seeking proposals for presenters, presentations, panels, and other features. See our forms below for details.
 

AEA Opposes Proposed Bill That Places Corporate Interests Ahead of Public Good

Posted on: June 17th, 2019 by Peggy Gallos

The following is based on written comments AEA submitted to the Senate Economic Growth committee regarding S3870.

The Association of Environmental Authorities (AEA) strongly opposes S3870 because it places corporate interests ahead of the public good, and it will hurt most the people who can least afford it. We are a trade association representing 85 public agencies, primarily authorities, which provide water, wastewater and solid waste utility service to millions of New Jerseyans. More than 40 private sector firms that provide professional services to the public sector also belong to AEA.

S3870 puts the ratepayer last because it favors a sales process focused on attaining a high price rather than securing the most efficient, cost-effective quality sewer service and getting the best deal for the people paying the sewer bills. These deals often are portrayed as great for the ratepayer, but what is left unsaid is that the corporate buyer can recover all or most of the purchase price in the rates paid by the ratepayers of the system. These deals are actually disguised loans—and expensive ones at that. The governing body gets to look great because they have secured a supposed “windfall.” What they have really done is ceded control of the town’s “circulatory” system and saddled the people who pay the sewer bills with the cost. 

              

AEA believes preserving public ownership and operation of public systems in New Jersey is worthwhile. Among the many things wrong with this bill is that it will help promote sales and undermine public ownership. Pennsylvania has similar legislation already in place, and the result has been what one article referred to as a “feeding frenzy”[1] of acquisitions at inflated prices.

Because S3870 permits methods of appraisal that will result in inflated prices, S3870 favors investor-owned utility shareholders over the people who have been paying the sewer bills for years. This bill will hurt ratepayers with lower incomes. It also hurts contractors and construction workers: dollars that go to shareholders can’t be spent to employ them on capital projects.

The bill allows so-called “fair market value” approaches to be used to determine the “value” of the system. These three approaches (cost, income, market) are borrowed from the real estate industry and are based on the assumption that a utility is sold on a competitive market. They do not apply well to the monopolistic nature of utilities. Fair market value approaches give the buyer AND the seller incentives to negotiate the HIGHEST, not the lowest, prices. By requiring the lower of two fair market value-based valuations, the bill appears to protect the ratepayers and get them the best price. But it doesn’t because those two prices are both likely to be inflated.

A June 7, 2019 blog — “Here’s what’s happening in State X: State law lets investor-owned acquirers and municipal system owners negotiate their own prices, subject to deferential state commission review….” The blog goes on to say, “The state regulator approves the rising acquisition prices, as long as they don’t exceed some standard borrowed from the real estate industry… that has no relevance to the acquired system’s real value.”[2]

The valuation provisions in S3870 rob current ratepayers of the benefit of billions of dollars in savings from the federal and state grants that built the systems. Soon after our organization was founded, nearly 50 years ago, the federal Clean Water Act became law. It was a golden age of sorts when it came to clean water funding. The Federal Construction Grants Program provided financial assistance to public bodies to upgrade and expand sewerage infrastructure. By 1983, the program had given $6.3 billion in grants in New Jersey. Our state created its own supplemental matching/supplemental grant program and gave regional sewerage facilities funding priority. Those grants helped introduce advanced wastewater treatment to our State — an enormous environmental achievement. S3870 says that when a sewer system is being appraised, “the original source of funding for any part of the sewerage system shall not be considered in determining the value of the sewerage system.” That means that those billions in dollars in grants are, for the purposes of the valuation, treated as if sewer system users had actually spent them. This is yet another way to inflate value.

AEA believes that every sales transaction deserves public scrutiny and should go to referendum. By eliminating public referendum as currently required, S3870 cloaks and obscures utility system transactions from public view and discourages public involvement. S3870 allows governing bodies to sidestep a full and vibrant public discourse about a vital community asset. Instead of going to the voters, under this bill, a handful people on a governing body could post a couple of routine meeting notices and agendas to initiate discussions that take place over one, two or maybe three poorly attended public meetings. Within a few months or less, this handful of people could decide to take the momentous and irretrievable step of selling the community’s wastewater system asset without making certain the people who pay the bills understand what is happening. Then, under this bill, the sale would be reviewed by a state-level board comprised of five gubernatorial appointees who deliberate in Trenton, in most cases miles away from where the ratepayers live, and they do so via a complex, quasi-judicial proceeding that is virtually opaque to the uninitiated or the lay person. In a recent report touting how great water/wastewater is for investors, Aqua America said legislation like S3870 represents a “favorable” regulatory trend. This of course begs the question: favorable for whom?

Utility finance expert Janice A. Beecher, Ph.D. of the Michigan State University Institute of Public Utilities, has referred to these investor-owned utility/municipal deals as having “potential for distorted incentives” that can leverage “public problems as private opportunity” in a way that can be seen as “unfair or even predatory.” The bill promotes shortsighted decision-making – what one expert calls “today’s proceeds rather than tomorrow’s performance.”[3]

Public servants in governing bodies need to understand that they do not need to mortgage the ratepayers’ future by selling or entering into lease/concession deals highly favorable to the concessionaire. They can decide not to raid wastewater funds, they can dedicate appropriate levels of funding to the system, they can apply for principal-forgiveness loans from the New Jersey I-Bank, and they can exercise oversight by hiring knowledgeable and dedicated managers. There are thousands of them out there.

AEA respectfully asks the Senate Economic Growth Committee to think of ratepayers, especially those with fewer resources, and to vote against releasing this bill.

 

 

[1] https://www.inquirer.com/philly/business/new-pennsylvania-law-private-water-sewer-acquisitions-aqua-pennsylvania-american-20180905.html

[2] Hempling, Scott. “Water Mergers: Are They Making Economic Sense?” June 7, 2019. www.scotthemplinglaw.com.

[3] See footnote #2

Watershed Ambassadors Program a Win-Win for AEA Member Organizations

Posted on: April 1st, 2019 by eric

Several AEA member organizations get a boost for their community outreach and education efforts and great prospects for hiring via participation in the AmeriCorps New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors Program, which was first developed and initiated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) in 2000.

Sussex County MUA (SCMUA), Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) and Cape May County MUA (CMCMUA) host and supervise AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassadors for their state-designated watershed management area, as part of a unique cooperative partnership arrangement with NJDEP. Their ambassadors are selected and hired by the NJDEP Division of Water Monitoring and Standards and charged with the mission of promoting watershed stewardship. Another AEA member organization, the Hamilton Township (Mercer) Department of Water Pollution Control (HTDWPC), recently hired a former watershed ambassador, Julia Galayda, whom they came to know through the Mercer County Park Commission Tulpehaking Nature Center, which had hosted her. Galayda completed her ambassador’s term in July and is now an environmental health aide at HTDWPC.

The current ambassador for SCMUA is John Ragsdale. ACUA hosted Kristina Koreivo as a watershed ambassador. She has since moved into a position at the NJDEP Division of Water Quality. ACUA temporarily hosted Kristen Andrada. Cape May County MUA is now hosting her.

In return for a modest stipend, watershed ambassadors like Galayda, Koreivo, Andrada, and Ragsdale complete a proscribed number of hours over the year of their ambassadorship and submit carefully kept records of their attendance and work record. They are required to do environmental community service and raise awareness by way of watershed stewardship projects. The ambassadors are assigned by NJDEP to a lead agency in each of New Jersey’s 20 designated watershed management areas.

Koreivo took water samples, participated in shore/bay cleanup events, and helped run rain barrel workshops. The ACUA watershed ambassador typically helps deliver that authority’s popular and multi-dimensional annual Earth Day observance. At SCMUA the ambassador has the opportunity to work side-by-side with the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group (WRWMG), providing them assistance with their day-to-day efforts to coordinate and implement watershed outreach, restoration, and stewardship projects. Galayda did stream clean-ups, rain barrel workshops, and presentations, and she completed 20 stream assessments with the DEP.

Nathaniel Sajdak, the SCMUA-WRWMG’s Watershed Director, actually served in the very first class of the Watershed Ambassador Program, and was hosted at the SCMUA in 2000-2001. NJDEP interviewed and subsequently chose Sajdak for the program right after he graduated college with a biology and environmental science degree.

“Being a watershed ambassador was a natural fit at that point in my life, where I was looking to begin a career in the environmental field,” says Sajdak. Upon completing his AmeriCorps term of service, Sajdak was officially hired by the SCMUA to be the Watershed Coordinater for the WRWMG.

Now in his 18th year as watershed director for the SCMUA, Sajdak leads a team of three who work in a variety of ways throughout the community to directly improve water quality in the watersheds of Sussex County. Ultimately, watershed management and stewardship has become one of three environmental services the SCMUA delivers, supplementing the primary mission of solid waste management and recycling and wastewater treatment. The WRWMG prides itself on facilitating three overall programs: agricultural outreach and assistance, stormwater management, and riparian enhancement. Through these programs, the WRWMG works directly with farmers to implement best management practices on farms such as manure collection and storage systems, with community members to build green infrastructure projects like rain gardens, and local landowners to reforest floodplains.

As AEA-member watershed ambassador host agencies have discovered, watershed ambassadors can be great additions to the staff, and this is a very important consideration in industry with a “graying” workforce. In addition to Sajdak, Kristine Rogers, who was the SCMUA’s watershed ambassador from 2014 to 2015, is now employed by the SCMUA to be one of three team members of the WRWMG, serving as the education and outreach specialist. Gary Conover, who is the program supervisor at ACUA, says his authority has hired several former ambassadors during the 13 years of ACUA’s participation.

Galayda works in the HTDWPC lab, preparing and testing samples. She came across the watershed ambassador program announcement through an Internet search in 2017. She had a bachelor’s degree in marine science and environmental science, but wasn’t entirely sure what path her career should take. She did not know whether she wanted to work in the field, in an office or in a classroom.

“The ambassadors program helped me see what I wanted to do,” she said.

More information: https://www.nj.gov/dep/wms    

 

2019 Wave Awards Honored Achievement in the Industry

Posted on: March 29th, 2019 by eric

AEA is proud to have recognized members during the annual recognition luncheon at the utility management conference in March of 2019. Awards included:

Outstanding Commissioner, Dr. Robert A. Bartolini of Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority and Ted Light of Middlesex County Utilities Authority. Outstanding Associate Member John Napolitano, Esq. of Cleary Giacobbe Alfieri Jacobs, LLC. For Individual Wave Achievement, Kyle Arnold of North Hudson Sewerage Authority, and Susan DuBey of Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority.

Also honored Up And Comer Award winner Apryl Roach of Franklin Township Sewerage Authority, Life Member Award Kevin Aiello of Middlesex County Utilities Authority, and Sid Weiss, Esq. of Southeast Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority.

Winning for Best Management Practices was the  Atlantic County Utilities Authority, the Hanover Sewerage Authority, North Hudson Sewerage Authority, and Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority. Winning an Energy Savers award was Ocean County Utilities Authority and Willingboro Municipal Utilities Authority, while winning a Forward Thinking award was Buena Borough Municipal Utilities Authority, Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, and Western Monmouth Utilities Authority. Finally, recognized for their efforts in Public Education was Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority.

In addition, we offer out Congratulations to the 2018 EPDA Cohort:

  • Thomas Bongiovanni, Two Bridges SA
  • Natalie Chesko, South Monmouth RSA
  • Yolanda Cox, Plainfield MUA
  • Paul Dobson, Stony Brook RSA
  • James Higgins, Evesham MUA
  • Don Hilty, Stony Brook RSA
  • Javier Irizarry, Stony Brook RSA
  • Janette Kessler, Atlantic County UA
  • Michael Mullen, Evesham MUA
  • Hossein (Mack) Rahimi, Stony Brook RSA
  • Jennifer Rivera, Pemberton Township MUA
  • Frank Rockwell, South Monmouth RSA

Training of Decision-makers: An Idea Whose Time has Come?

Posted on: March 25th, 2019 by eric

By AEA President Dave Harpell

In November of 2016, Peggy Gallos, AEA executive director, Pam Carolan, executive director of Mount Laurel Township MUA, and I testified before the Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water. Among our recommendations was this: “In contrast, appointed planning board and elected board of education members are required to have a baseline orientation to help them understand their vital role in their respective spheres. Similar requirements for appointed and elected county, authority and municipal officials would be useful. Such new legislation could be modeled on existing requirements for planning board and board of education members – that within the first year of taking office or beginning an appointed term, local officials who will be making decisions about water and sewer funds must attend an orientation to introduce them to the basics of operations and best management practices.”

We made this recommendation because we know that better decisions are more likely to come from leaders who understand their systems and organizations.

I am pleased to say that the final report issued by the task force in 2018 contained this recommendation. More specifically, it stated that, “the Legislature should enact legislation requiring elected and appointed officials who make decisions about water infrastructure to receive standardized education about basic system operations, finance, regulation, and best management practices in their first term. “

At the beginning of the 218th Legislative Session, Assemblyman John McKeon and Senator Linda Greenstein, who had co-chaired the task force, introduced bills  (A3500/S1952) that would require training. In addition, a NJDEP official recently said the Department was considering adding training requirements to the regulations implementing the Water Quality Accountability Act.

This is one example illustrating both the value of speaking up and the value of AEA. Comments on legislation or regulations, participating in panels and conferences, and taking part in our state’s dialogue about public policy matters makes a difference. A new idea is like a pebble tossed into the water. It moves out to a wider audience. Once out there, a new idea can be taken up by others. It can and does have an impact. It can make its way into high-profile reports, into proposed legislation, or into regulations.

AEA is the platform from which we can participate and make our voice heard. I want to thank each member –authority, municipal member, associate or affiliate—that has recommitted this year to membership in AEA. When we work together through AEA, we can help our members be heard.