Town and utility company officials are at odds about just why talks broke down regarding a long-discussed proposal to bring natural gas into New Canaan.
While members of the Utilities Commission and others in New Canaan have long maintained that Eversource failed to deliver on a commitment to bring natural gas here—the upshot of which includes a plan now in place to heat public schools with propane—officials with the Berlin, Conn.-based company said it was town’s decision to abandon plans.
“It’s unfortunate that New Canaan town leaders have a different recollection of what happened during our talks to bring natural gas to town,” Tricia Taskey Modifica, Eversource Energy’s media relations manager for Connecticut, told NewCanaanite.com in an email.
“We made an offer to First Selectman Rob Mallozzi and the Utilities Commission last year that would have brought natural gas to the schools, YMCA, and Waveny Care Center. Once that was complete, we would have extended the system to bring gas downtown and through the residential neighborhoods nearby. We were disappointed to learn that the town had already signed an agreement that committed them to use oil through the 2016-2017 heating season, especially when more than 1,000 residents expressed interest in converting to natural gas. As we’ve indicated many times, including our most recent meeting in April to discuss their decision to switch to propane, we remain open to further discussions with town leaders to bring energy savings to the community.”
The comments come after town officials made it known that they had hit upon a different and cost-effective way to heat large buildings such as Saxe Middle School, South School, New Canaan High School, Waveny Care Center and the New Canaan YMCA. Neither side has disagreed that those larger anchor buildings are important in order to make a capital investment in infrastructure for natural gas in New Canaan viable.
Yet town officials have said it was their frustration with Eversource’s inability to produce a workable proposal that ultimately led them to a new plan for installing “dual-system” propane tanks at public buildings.
After officials with the New Canaan Department of Public Works this month unveiled the plan at a Utilities Commission meeting, Eversource submitted a letter to New Canaanite saying the company was disappointed.
Then, at a meeting of the Utilities Commission this month, chairman Tom Tesluk referred to the letter, calling its characterization of events “interesting” because “it has been very, very difficult to get answers” or momentum from the utility on natural gas.
Tesluk at the June 6 meeting, held at Town Hall, called the experience “frustrating” and said that while two years ago the town had “really intense discussions” with the company [then called ‘Yankee Gas’], those stalled and “went nowhere.”
Mallozzi said that Eversource had other reasons for its outreach to the media—namely, the utility learned that the YMCA and Waveny Care Center had been in deep discussions about bringing in propane as a main heating source.
Both of those entities, Mallozzi said, had been in discussions with the utility regarding natural gas, but “also got very, very tired of the lack of progress.”