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Governor Announces Acting DMV Commissioner


The Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Labor will serve as Acting Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles, the governor’s office announced on Monday, and Gov. Dannel Malloy has chosen former Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson as the director of the state Department of Labor.

Dennis Murphy will serve as acting commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles until Gov. Dannel Malloy selects a permanent commissioner of the agency, the governor said in a statement.

The former DMV Commissioner, Andres Ayala, resigned last week just days following the DMV’s promise to make good after a glitch in its new computer system caused police to wrongly pull over drivers for having suspended registrations.

“Dennis is exceptionally smart, driven, and capable. He has the management abilities to lead the agency until we find the right person to fill this important role on a permanent basis. He has been an outstanding public servant, and I thank him for taking on this job,” Malloy said in a statement.

“I’m proud of my five years of service at the Department of Labor. We have led the nation in programs such as Step-Up, which gets people back to work, programs to ensure the integrity of the unemployment system to reduce fraud, and expanding our capacity and effectiveness to ensure that people who work get paid what they deserve. I want to thank the highly talented and dedicated staff at all levels for their hard work and steadfast focus on the customer,” Murphy said in a statement. “In my short assignment at the DMV, I hope to provide the Governor and the next DMV Commissioner opportunities and pathways forward in that agency for continuous improvement.”

Murphy will begin the position at the DMV on Friday, Feb. 12.

The state senate will have to confirm Jackson's appointment.

Malloy has also chosen Kurt Westby as the deputy commissioner of the Department of Labor.

Photo Credit: AP

Driver Rams Other Car Into Snowbank, Punches Victim: PD


Police arrested a 49-year-old man after he repeatedly rammed another car into a snowbank while driving on Route 305 from Bloomfield to Windsor and then got out of the car and pummeled the other driver, then chasing him along the road before fleeing police in a pursuit, police said.

Joyceson Young 49, of Bloomfield, is facing multiple charges including assault and reckless endangerment  after police received a 911 call from a motorist at about a pick-up truck driver repeatedly slamming into another car while driving on Route 305 (Bloomfield Avenue) at 12:20 a.m. on Sunday. 

After ramming the victim's car into a snowbank, Young got out of his car and approached the victim, punching him multiple times, police said. The victim freed his car from the snowbank and fled, so Young got back in his car and chased him eastbound along the state road into Windsor, police said. 

Throughout the incident, the victim was on a cell phone with police, keeping them informed about what was going on. Young and the victim didn't know each other or have any connection, so the victim had no idea why he was being attacked, police said. Investigators said they're not sure what triggered the road rage incident. 

Police got to the scene where the chase was happening and Young led them on a pursuit, which ended when he crashed into a third car unrelated to the initial road rage incident, police said. 

Officers took Young into custody after he briefly struggled with police. 

Young and the victim were taken to area hospitals to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The third driver whose car Young crashed into wasn't injured. 

Windsor police charged Young with first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment, reckless driving, engaging police in a pursuit, resisting arrest or interfering with an officer, second-degree criminal mischief and failure to drive in the proper lane. 

Young is scheduled to appear in Enfield Superior Court on Feb. 2. 

Windsor police continue to investigate the road rage incident and anticipate more charges against Young. 

Photo Credit: Windsor Police Department

East Hartford Police Investigate After Finding Shooting Victim


East Hartford police are investigating after they found a shooting victim who said he was shot out of town.

Police found the man when they responded to Burnside Avenue in East Hartford. It’s not clear how he wound up on there.

The man was transported to Hartford Hospital and no additional information was immediately available.

Police in Windsor are also investigating reports of shots fired at 1:03 p.m. around five and a half miles away, in the Windsor Shopping Center in the 500 block of Windsor Avenue, and said they are working with East Hartford Police.

Windsor police said they were not able to find a victim at the site or evidence of  a shooting. 

Before officers arrived, police said a white or silver sedan and a dark sedan were  seen leaving the shopping center and heading southbound.

Windsor Police are asking anyone with information to call 860-688-5273.

Check back for updates on this breaking news story.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

DMB to Play in CT Concert Before 2017 Tour Hiatus


Dave Matthews Band concerts have become a tradition come summertime in Connecticut and LiveNation has announced the singer's next performance in the state before the band goes on hiatus from touring next year. 

In honor of the band's 25th anniversary, it has announced a 46-date North American 2016 summer tour before taking next year off from touring. The band has sold 20 million tickets and 38 million CDs and DVDs since it formed and is the first musical group to ever have six consecutive studio albums debut on top of the Billboard 200 charts, according to LiveNation.

The band will pay Hartford a visit yet again in a concert at Xfinity Theatre on Savitt Way on Saturday, June 11 at 7 p.m. 

Every night of the tour, the Dave Matthews Band will play two full sets. The tour launches May 11 at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas and includes two nights in Camden, New Jersey, Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Gilford New Hampshire, Saratoga Springs, New York, Noblesvile, Indiana, West Palm Beach, Florida and Berkeley, California. The tour ends at The Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington, a locations where the band has headlined over 50 shows. 

Other artists will play in a concert on Labor Day weekend Sept. 2 to 4. 

Tickets go on sale at livenation.com starting Friday, Feb. 19 at noon. Lawn prices start at $40.50, reserved pavilion tickets go for $75 to $85 and general admission pit tickets cost $85, plus any additional ticket purchase fees that apply. Online presale for the Warehouse Fan Association starts Jan. 26.  People who use Citi credit cards, the official card of the tour, can buy tickets a few days early on Feb. 16 through Citi's Private Pass Program at www.citiprivatepass.com

You can also call 800-745-3000 to buy tickets. 

See the full concert schedule on the Dave Matthews Band website at davematthewsband.com

The band's first concert of the year is on Feb. 4 at San-Francisco's Pier 70 at a sold-out Super Thursday Night event, which is the first of three concerts DIRECTV and Pepsi is hosting ahead of Super Bowl 50. 

Dave Matthews Band 2016 Summer Tour Schedule
May 11: Wichita, KS INTRUST Bank Arena
May 13: The Woodlands, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
May 14: Dallas, TX Gexa Energy Pavilion
May 17: Oklahoma City, OK Chesapeake Energy Arena
May 18: North Little Rock, AR Verizon Arena
May 20: Cincinnati, OH Riverbend Music Center
May 21: Cuyahoga Falls, OH Blossom Music Center
May 24:  Pelham, AL Oak Mountain Amphitheatre
May 27:  Charlotte, NC PNC Music Pavilion
May 28: Atlanta, GA Lakewood Amphitheatre
May 29: Maryland Heights, MO Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
June 7: Holmdel, NJ PNC Bank Arts Center
June 8: Bangor, ME Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion
June 10: Mansfield, MA Xfinity Center
June 11: Hartford, CT XFINITY Theatre
June 17: Virginia Beach, VA Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater
June 18: Bristow, VA Jiffy Lube Live
June 21: Wantagh, NY Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
June 22: Syracuse, NY Lakeview Amphitheater
June 24: Camden, NJ BB&T Pavilion
June 25: Camden, NJ BB&T Pavilion
June 28L Moline, IL iWireless Center
June 29: Bonner Springs, KS Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
July 1: Elkhorn, WI Alpine Valley Music Theatre
July 2: Elkhorn, WI Alpine Valley Music Theatre
July 8: Columbus, OH Nationwide Arena
June 9: Burgettstown, PA First Niagara Pavilion
July 12: Gilford, NH Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion
July 13: Gilford, NH Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion
July 15: Saratoga Springs, NY Saratoga Performing Arts Center
July 16: Saratoga Springs, NY Saratoga Performing Arts Center
July 19: Toronto, ON Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
July 20: Clarkston, MI DTE Energy Music Theatre
July 22: Noblesville, IN Klipsch Music Center
July 23:  Noblesville, IN Klipsch Music Center
July 26:  North Charleston, SC North Charleston Coliseum

Photo Credit: Alex Matthews

Governor Names Scott Jackson as Department of Labor Commissioner


Gov. Dannel Malloy has chosen former Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson as the director of the state Department of Labor and Kurt Westby as the deputy commissioner of the Department of Labor.

“I’ve known both Scott and Kurt for a number of years.  I am confident that with their extraordinary qualities and skill-sets – they will work with the diverse group of stakeholders to move the Department of Labor forward,” Malloy said in a statement. “Scott is a friend and an exceptional public servant. Kurt has spent his career trying to improve the lives of Connecticut residents.  I believe they both will work together successfully to ensure that the state’s workforce is successful while enabling and our business community to thrive.”

Jackson, who served as mayor of Hamden for three terms, has most recently served as the undersecretary for Intergovernmental Policy for the state.

The state senate will have to confirm Jackson's appointment. Jackson will begin serving as Commissioner of the Department of Labor on Wednesday, Feb. 3.  He will succeed Sharon Palmer, who retired from the position in December. 

Westby currently serves as a consultant to SEIU, where he manages staff and negotiations in Connecticut, as well as in Florida and New Orleans. 

Previously, he has served as vice president and a district leader with SEIU Local 32BJ, and also served for 18 years as Vice President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

“I am honored to serve the Governor and residents of Connecticut as Deputy Commissioner and look forward to improving the lives of all working families,” Westby said in a statement.

Westby will begin in the position of Deputy Commissioner on Monday, Feb. 15.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police Bust Illegal Night Club at Former Fish Store


Police busted an illegal night club at a a former exotic fish and pet store in New Haven early Saturday morning.

Just after 1 a.m., police spotted around 100 people in or around an exotic fish store that leases space on 1522 Whalley Avenue in upper Westville, police said.

The building used to be a fish and pet store but has since been sold to a new owner, Worldwide Fish and Pet owner, Pete Sachs, told NBC Connecticut.

Police said the shop was closed and a nightclub had been created inside, so officers called for help and shut the party down. According to the New Haven police press release, the alleged nightclub was taking place at an "exotic fish store."

Police said they are reaching out to the fire marshal’s office, building code officials and the liquor commission.

Photo Credit: Google Street View

Emergency Crews Respond to Fire in Newington


Emergency crews have responded to a fire on Pheasant Run in Newington.

A passerby called the fire department after seeing the house's garage on fire, Fire Marshal of Newington Chris Schroeder said.

An elderly couple was still in the house when officials arrived but were safely removed from the house, Schroeder said. 

Explosions heard outside the house were aerosol cans typically found inside of garages. 

Officials are still looking for the cause but they said it appears to be accidental.

The couple will stay with their son as the house is not livable in its current state.

No information was available, but photos from the scene show heavy fire.

Photo Credit: Submitted

Storm Causes Outages for Access Health CT Customer Call Center


The weekend storm is causing problems for the Access Health CT call center on Monday.

Maximus, which runs the call center headquarters in Virginia, notified Access Health CT at 8:30 a.m. on Monday that the snow caused a technical outage and “has also impaired the ability of Maximus staff to travel to their offices to fix the problem,”
Access Health CT CEO Jim Wadleigh said in a statement.

“We have been told that they expect to have the issue resolved by the end of the day but there is obviously the possibility that problems might continue beyond that,” he added.

This comes during the last week of open enrollment.

“Naturally we are concerned that our call center is not fully functioning during our last week of open enrollment,” Wadleigh said in a statement. “Monday is usually our busiest day of the week so consumers calling us should expect very long wait times. As we have said in the past, any consumer who calls us before the enrollment deadline at midnight on January 31st and leaves a message will receive a call back after the deadline to help them enroll.”

People are urged to use the Access Health CT website.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

SoCal Inmates Search Continues


Investigators reached out to the public Monday in an effort to track down information on three inmates, two of whom are believed to have gang ties, after their escape over the weekend from an Orange County jail.

More than 30 search warrants have been served since the manhunt began Friday after Hossein Nayeri, 37, Jonathan Tieu, 20, and Bac Duong, 43, were discovered missing from the Orange County Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana. The three men likely cut through steel bars and plumbing ducts before climbing to the roof and rappelling down several stories using a rope.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department conducted a news conference Monday to ask for help from the public hours before prosecutors announced that the men face new charges connected with the escape even as they are on the run.

"I really want to emphasize the important role of the public," said Orange County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jeff Hallock. "Look at these pictures. We know that somebody out there knows something."

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said Sunday there have been no sightings of the fugitives and there is no reason to believe the inmates have left the country. The warrants served since the escapes were served at homes and on electronic devices, such as phones and computers.

Hutchens said it was believed the inmates had tools to get through three secured areas in the jail and described the escape as a highly "sophisticated operation." Sheriff's officials released images and surveillance video of evidence connected to the escape of the three inmates, including photos of a rope believed to have been used in the escape.

All three men are considered dangerous, authorities said.

"We understand you're in danger, we understand you're fearful, that you may be fearful about coming forward with information about where these individuals are located," said Lt. Dave Sawyer, of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Nayeri, who had been in custody since September 2014, faces charges of kidnapping, torture, burglary and aggravated mayhem. He is accused of torturing the victim, a marijuana dispensary owner, burning him with a blow torch and cutting off his penis, Sawyer said.

Nayeri and two other assailants believed the man was hiding money in the desert, according to investigators. The victim survived the attack after being dumped in the desert, Sawyer said.

Nayeri was being held without bail.

Tieu faces charges for murder, attempted murder, and shooting at an inhabited dwelling. His case is believed to be gang-related. He had been held on a $1 million bond since October 2013. Tieu was set to be arraigned in March for his second murder trial. His first case ended in a mistrial.

Duong, who is ineligible for bail due to an immigration hold, had been in custody since December 2015 on charges of possession of a firearm, possession of stolen property, vehicle theft, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and shooting an at inhabited dwelling. He also is associated with a Vietnamese gang, Sawyer said. According to court records, Duong has a criminal past that goes back 20 years. He did time in San Diego and Orange County.

In November, authorities said he shot at a house and tried to kill a man. He's been inside Men's Central Jail since November.

Tieu and Duong might be "embedded" with the Vietnamese community in the area,  sheriff's investigators said.

"We need the community to realize what a danger they present," said Sawyer. "Specifically, in the Vietnamese community, there is fear that exists."

The U.S. Marshals Service is offering a $30,000 reward — $10,000 for each inmate and the FBI is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to their arrest, the sheriff’s department said.

Anyone who sees any of the suspects should call 911 immediately, and  anyone with information regarding their possible whereabouts was urged to call  a special hotline at 714-628-7085.

Residents were on high alert ever since the news of the inmate escape broke.

Photo Credit: Orange County Sheriff's Department

Girl Falls in Snow-Covered Manhole


A 6-year-old girl out for a walk in the snow in the Bronx Saturday afternoon tumbled down a manhole, authorities said.

The girl was walking with her mother at about 3:30 p.m. on Westchester Avenue in Woodstock when she fell down the snow-covered manhole.

"Out of nowhere, my daughter just disappeared. She went straight through the snow into the hole," the girl's mother, Sharon Burrell, said from her attorney's office Monday. 

A group of people playing football rushed over and were able to take the girl out of the manhole outside a public housing complex. 

She was taken to Lincoln Hospital and kept overnight, authorities said.

Her injuries were not considered life-threatening, according to the FDNY.

The manhole was haphazardly roped off with a trash bin and caution tape until Monday afternoon, outraging the girl's mother. 

"They should have closed the hole Saturday, when my daughter almost died in that hole," Burrell's voice is heard in a cellphone video of the scene provided to NBC 4 by her attorney. "This is what they do, they put garbage and a pile of snow and a chair to try to cover this hole that is still there."

Another cellphone video taken by a resident echoed the mom's worries: "This is right by a basketball court where little kids play. There's no reason they shouldn't have something guarding this," the man is heard saying. "Look how high this snow is, larger than most little kids, like four feet. No way a kid could have seen this."

NYCHA, the agency that oversees the city's public housing, said Monday evening the manhole covere appeared to be have been moved. The agency has covered the manhole with plywood as an immediate safety measure until a contractor puts up a fence around the manhole "as soon as tomorrow," a spokeswoman said. 

Burrell's attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, said NYCHA failed to maintain the property and pathways "the way they're required to under the law." 

Mayor de Blasio had urged residents to contact 311 if they saw manholes without covers. He said snow plows could inadvertently scrape the covers off. 

Photo Credit: Sharon Burrell

'The Water Was Crazy': Mom Describes Family's Jersey Shore Rescue


Crystal Hutchinson knew the Jersey Shore might flood during the blizzard so when she woke at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday, she checked for rising water.


Forty-five minutes later her husband, James, woke her again. The fast moving water was almost on their porch in North Wildwood and the electricity was off.

“The water was crazy, crazy right outside of the door,” she said.

Hutchinson, her husband, her five children as well as her neighbor’s teenage daughter and the girl’s boyfriend were stranded and the North Wildwood Police Department was overwhelmed with emergency calls.

“The water was still coming up and we didn’t know how we were going to get out,” she said.

An hour and a half later, they were able to flag down a 5-ton military truck that the police use for high waters. They passed the younger children over then waded in. Later Hutchinson tweeted a photo of her 9-year-old daughter, Jolie Wilson, being carried to the truck. The photo was taken by her neighbor, Ashgan Abouelgheet.

“We were petrified,” Hutchinson said. “We were so scared. The kids were all having anxiety attacks.”

Three years ago, the family lost everything while living in neighboring Wildwood during superstorm Sandy. They were afraid they would again.

The Hutchinsons and their neighbors were among up to 200 people evacuated by the police department throughout the day, Chief Matthew Gallagher said. Cities at the southern end of the Jersey Shore were flooded more severely than during Sandy while other were pummeled as dramatically or worse.

Police Officer Joseph Kopetsky, who carried Jolie to the truck, said that the Hutchinsons’ call for help was among 45 pending at one point. The water was a few inches from the top his waders — about 4 to 4 1/2 feet, he estimated. He and his fellow officer, Justin Robinson, tired to keep the children calm.

“We just tried out best to make them comfortable while we guided them into the truck,” Kopetsky said. “It’s intimidating.”

The Hutchinsons eventually found their way to Crystal Hutchinson’s mother’s house in nearby North Cape May.

In the end, the water stopped rising soon after they left and they had no damage. But others in town lost belongings, she said.

“We were the lucky ones,” she said. “There were a lot of people who were much less fortunate.”

Photo Credit: Ashgan Abouelgheet

Funding for Home Heating Assistance Should be Increased: Sen


During previous winters, it has been a challenge for Jasmine Sullivan, a mother of three children, to pay her energy bills.

“Gas companies, they don’t really care if you have no income or you can’t afford, if you’re working or not,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes, I even had to use other people’s electricity to help, lots of blankets, if I have electricity through the stove boiling water, it’s terrible, because the kids are cold, I’m cold.”

For several years, Sullivan has relied on the assistance she applies for through the Community Action Agency of New Haven.

“It definitely helps keep us out of the cold, especially around this time when it’s snowing, it really does help,” she said, “It’s a life saver, it definitely is.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) listened to Sullivan’s story during his visit Monday to the Community Action Agency. Now, he plans to share it with colleagues in Washington, D.C. as he fights for more federal funding for the low income energy assistance program.

“This is really a matter of life and death and here in Connecticut,” Sen. Murphy said. “We’re going to get flat funding this year compared to last year for our low income heating assistance program, but that’s simply not enough.”

Murphy said with more recipients in the program, they are receiving less of the benefit, which means a lower percentage of what it costs to keep warm in the winter.

Even with falling home heating oil and natural gas prices, a recent study by the non-profit Operation Fuel found more than 313,000 Connecticut residents can’t afford their energy bills.

“The people that we serve are working class families and they don’t often get pay raises for the last 5 to 10 years, in fact most of them still struggle with paying their bills,” said Amos Lee Smith, the President and CEO of the Community Action Agency of New Haven.

Applicants this year for home heating assistance at the Community Action Agency are up 10 to 12 percent, Smith said. He added they have slowed down the number of daily appointments to keep up with processing applications.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

New Britain Sees Opportunity with Hartford Baseball Delays


The city of New Britain and the newly established New Britain Bees Minor League Baseball team are looking to take advantage of some of the recent struggles that have gone on in Hartford.

The Hartford Yard Goats won't take the field in the capital city until May 31 under a new agreement to finance the $10 million completion of Dunkin' Donuts Park, the team's new downtown stadium.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin announced he had brokered the deal between the city, team, and stadium developer after delays in the construction became public in December.

The Rock Cats announced in June 2014 they would play baseball in Hartford in 2016.

The Bees, however, are full speed ahead for first pitch at New Britain Stadium on April 21.

“We’re very excited. We have a great schedule," said Bill Dowling, a Senior Advisor to the Bees, and a one-time owner of the New Britain Rock Cats, the team that became the Hartford Yard Goats.

"We have a great team.”

City and team officials are now shopping around naming rights for New Britain Stadium to companies looking for added exposure. City officials confirmed to NBC Connecticut that the asking price for a ten year naming rights agreement is $500,000.

Mayor Erin Stewart, who landed the Bees after the abrupt departure of the Rock Cats, said it's a great chance for both the city and a suitor.

“Why not do it here?" Stewart asks. "What’s important is that the option is there and it also gives the team an extra added boost. But for the business there are going to be hundreds of thousands of people that come through those stadium doors on an annual basis and their name will be there prominently displayed.”

Dowling with the New Britain Bees said he expects to see some added ticket sales as a result of the Yard Goats not being in town for the entire months of April and May. The team has announced it will play its first 28 games on the road.

“I think it will mean a lot to some of the schools and maybe some of the groups in April or May that people from Hartford will come here" Dowling said. "I think it’s an opportunity that we have to seize and we have to leap on it and we have to take advantage of the best we have and get people in here to provide great family entertainment.”

Stewart said she's excited that baseball will continue in New Britain after many thought it may not come back following the departure of the Rock Cats. She said it's not lost on her that New Britain will be ready for baseball as Hartford will still have shovels in the ground.

“I’m feeling pretty good," she said.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Calif.'s Massive Methane Leak Highlights Crisis Across U.S.


As the massive natural gas leak in Aliso Canyon continues to pump methane into the air above Los Angeles, environmental activists are warning about a much bigger and more widespread crisis that is not drawing nearly as much attention: leaks throughout the nation's oil and gas supply chain.

A series of studies spearheaded by the Environmental Defense Fund beginning in 2012 found problems across the country at every point of the natural gas supply chain, from thousands of wellheads to miles of utility lines underneath city streets. Emissions at the Barnett Shale in Texas, one of the country's major oil and gas producing regions, were almost twice the estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, researchers found.

Together the leaks add up to more than 7.3 million metric tons of methane emissions a year, dwarfing what is happening at Aliso Canyon — and producing the same effect on the climate over 20 years as 160 coal-fired power plants, the Environmental Defense Fund says. Earlier research of methane in the atmosphere indicated emissions were 50 percent greater than estimated by the EPA.

"Aliso Canyon on the one hand is unique because it's so big and because it is happening at a gas storage facility but it is at the same time very symptomatic of a problem that exists across the oil and gas industry," said Mark Brownstein, a vice president in the organization's climate and energy program.

With the United States now the largest producer of natural gas in the world, the Obama administration has been promoting it as a cleaner energy alternative. Even as environmental officials urge the country to lessen its dependence on natural gas, it remains a significant part of the U.S. energy mix.

And methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas. In the United States, it amounted to 10 percent of greenhouse emissions in 2013, the second most prevalent gas connected to human activities after carbon dioxide, according to the EPA. Pound for pound, its effect on climate change is 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

Complaints of headaches and nosebleeds
The leak above the Los Angeles neighborhood of Porter Ranch, which has sickened some residents, is enormous — one of the largest ever recorded, according to Timothy O'Connor, the Environmental Defense Fund's oil and gas director in California. It has released more than 87,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere since the end of October, the equivalent of more than $13 million worth of natural gas wasted or 827 million gallons of gasoline burned, according to the organization.

The escaping methane is a blow to California's position as an environmental leader. Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown announced an ambitious goal of curbing greenhouse gases faster than originally planned — but now officials estimate Aliso Canyon to be responsible for 25 percent of the state's methane emissions. Brown was forced to declare a state of emergency at the beginning of the month while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has compared the leak to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Aliso Canyon is used as a storage field by the Southern California Gas Co., whose crews discovered the leak at one of the wells on Oct. 23. The gas company says it could take until the end of February to cap it. A plan to capture and burn off the leaking gas was abandoned on Jan. 18 because regulators were afraid of a catastrophic explosion of the well. On Jan. 23, state regulators ordered the gas company to close the leaking well permanently.

The leak has driven thousands of people from their homes in Porter Ranch, many with complaints of headaches, nosebleeds and nausea, possibly from odorants that have been added. Natural gas has no odor so a smell of "rotten eggs" is added to help detect leaks. A group of residents have filed a class-action lawsuit and are demanding that the storage field be closed permanently.

"I think it's poisoning our family," one resident, Christine Katz, told NBC Los Angeles.

She and her husband, Brian, sued Southern California Gas Co. and its parent company, Sempra Energy, in December after one of their children was hospitalized for trouble breathing.

"She's never had a breathing problem," Christine Katz said of her 2-year-old daughter, Ava. "She's never had asthma."

The Gas Company has said it does not comment on pending litigation.

"Stuff just goes wrong"
There are 400 other natural gas storage facilities across the country, with their potential for leaks. But it is the generally much smaller leaks occurring throughout the system that are more of a problem, said Adam Brandt, an assistant professor at Stanford University's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Science.

"Getting the overall leakage percentage down of the whole system, not just of any particular leak, is pretty important for future use of gas in the face of climate concerns," Brandt said.

Natural gas is a significant component of the U.S. energy supply — supplying a third of the country's electricity, heating about two-thirds of the homes and fueling stoves — plus it is used for plastics and fertilizer. 

An earlier study, conducted by researchers from Stanford University and elsewhere and of which Brandt was the lead author, found that methane leaks had negated the climate-change benefits of using natural gas over diesel fuel for transportation — though it also found that generating electricity by burning gas instead of coal would still lower greenhouse effects over 100 years. That's because burning coal not only releases an enormous amount of carbon dioxide but mining it also releases methane.

There are close to 1 million oil and gas wells across the United States and millions of miles of pipes. The methane leaks are a result both of aging infrastructure and the complexity of the system, Brandt said. Often wells are scattered in remote areas, added to the challenge of locating leaks and repairing them.

"You’ve got a complex system under pressure with a lot of devices and valves and safety systems associated with it and stuff just goes wrong," he said.

New federal regulations
David Allen, a professor in chemical engineering and director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources at the University of Texas at Austin, said that one way to tackle the problem would be to find so-called super-emitters or equipment, wells or sites that emit large amounts of methane and make repairs or replacements there.

"Often a small subset of wells, or sites, or specific pieces of equipment, dominate the emissions from that type of emissions source," said Allen, the principal investigator for one of the Environmental Defense Fund's studies, in an email.

For example, about 20 percent of pneumatic controllers — devices found all along the oil and gas chains to control the opening and closing of values — account for 95 percent of methane emissions from pneumatic controllers, he said.

The first federal regulations to require the county's oil and gas to cut methane emissions were proposed in August by the Environmental Protection Agency. The regulations are meant to reduce emissions by 20 to 30 percent; the EPA's goal is a drop of 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. In addition, on Jan. 22, the Interior Department proposed rules for emissions at operations on federal land.

The oil and gas industry says the regulations are unnecessary and expensive. The cost to industry, would be up to $420 million a year by 2025 but that would be countered by savings of up $550 million a year, according to EPA estimates.

Environmentalists back the regulations but say they do not go far enough because they apply primarily to new wells not existing ones.

Opposition from the oil, gas industry
"The fact is that America is already leading the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," the American Petroleum Institute said in a statement. "Even as oil and natural gas production has risen dramatically, methane emissions have fallen, thanks to industry leadership and investment in new technologies."

The institute's president, Jack Gerard, has said that even as oil and natural gas production has surged, methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells have fallen nearly 79 percent since 2005, and carbon dioxide emissions were down to 27-year lows. The decrease was a result of significant investments in new technologies and leadership from the industry, he said.

The president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, Barry Russell, said in a statement that administration was proposing a costly and complicated regulatory program for few environmental benefits. The cuts would inflict more pain on the men and women working in the oil and gas industry at a time when it was already buffeted by falling prices.

Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, called the proposed rules another example of the "Obama administration's war on American energy jobs."

"The EPA's own data show that methane emissions in the United States decreased by almost 15 percent between 1990 and 2013, yet EPA is forging ahead with this extraneous and unnecessary regulation," Smith said in a statement over the summer. "Instead of conspiring with extreme environmental interests, EPA should stop punishing cooperative industry stakeholders and start partnering with them in their current efforts to capture methane in a responsible manner.”

The Environmental Defense Fund disputes that representation of emissions data and says that the 7.3 million metric tons estimated by the EPA show a 3 percent increase over 2012.

"There needs to be a requirement frankly that companies do systematic and routine surveys of their operations so that in the event that there is a problem it can be found and fixed," Brownstein said.

A handful of states, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming, have implemented their own regulations for finding and fixing leaks — Pennsylvania announced on Jan. 19 that it would include existing natural gas operations — but others have not.

"I think that's ultimately why you need a federal standard, because some states are going to step up and other states won't," Brownstein said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Petition for 'Resident Only' Parking Near Yale-New Haven Hospital


If you live or work in New Haven, you know the struggle that is finding a good parking spot.

Along Howard Avenue between Minor Street and Columbus Avenue, there are no meters and the only restricted parking signs are for when it snows.

“It is free open territory,” said resident Janice Parker, “but we are asking the Yale employees to be considerate of the people that live here.”

Hospital and university employees are taking advantage of the free parking, Parker said, forcing residents to find other places to park.

“Most of the streets around here are already zoned,” Parker said, “so the residents are getting parking tickets by going to other places.”

In order to reserve spots, Parker has resorted to leaving trash bins in the street.

“They’ve been out there for about two months now,” she said.

Parker and her neighbors want a more permanent solution. They are asking city officials for a residential parking zone on their block.

“We as residents who live here do not have efficient parking for ourselves,” Parker said.

Director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking Doug Housladen said it is a two-step process to change the current parking situation.

“One is a legislative process that creates a zone and then a petition process that changes a regulation into a residential zone only,” Housladen said.

Another option, Housladen said, would be to turn that portion of Howard Ave. into a mixed residential and metered parking zone.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Siding Falls Off Storrs Condos, Affects Businesses


Off-campus condos at UConn have finally been fixed after some of the siding fell off of it last week.

Siding from The Oaks On The Square condos began falling off late last week affecting the businesses under it.

Insomnia Cookies closed for two days.

“The paneling started coming off and they didn’t want anyone to get hit and then I also got a call on Saturday saying we’re not going to open because they were working on it all day,” said Alexis Waller who works there.

Mooyah Burger, which is located next to the cookie shop had to open their side door for business.

“Yeah, we closed the entire area but after they built that stuff there, everybody can just walk in,” said employee, Alberto Negron.

Maintenance crews spent Monday afternoon fixing the siding. Developer of the condominiums, EDR said siding became loose Thursday, but did not fall.

“In those particular boards it could have been a manufacturing defect or perhaps the way they were fastened the nails that are pneumatically driven could have been driven, could’ve been over driven through the surface," said Mike Ninteau, Mansfield's Director of Building and Housing.

Crews then blocked the sidewalk area directly under the dangling siding to prevent anyone from being hurt. Town building inspectors expect the sidewalk shed to be removed soon.

No one was displaced because of the siding incident.

The apartments are privately owned and not affiliated with UConn.

The Oaks at the Square were built in 2012.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

CT Transit Buses Under Expert Review


The big blue CT Transit buses in greater Hartford and how they can best serve the public are under expert review but the public is having its say in surveys and public meetings.

"Public input is going to be one factor going in to identifying a hybrid or preferred alternative but we're also going to be looking at things like potential ridership increases as a result of the different routing changes," said Cara Radzins, transportation planner with the Capitol Region Council of Governments after a public meeting last Tuesday.

The study goes to CT Transit and the state's department of transportation later this year for possible implementation next year.

The bus service makes the difference for many passengers between getting to work or school and being stuck at home.

Radzins said there are two potential scenarios for improvement.

The experts studying greater Hartford bus service have developed two potential scenarios for improvement.

"One would be looking at more minor changes, just small route level tweaks to the existing service. And then the second would be a more fundamental overhaul of the system," Radzins said.

That fundamental overhaul Radzin said might mean fewer transfers in downtown Hartford and more suburb to suburb bus service, if that turns out to be more efficient.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

The 14 Most Heartbreaking Super Bowl Moments


The history of the Super Bowl has seen its fair share of shocking upsets, horrendous blunders and lopsided routs.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Crews Respond to "Sheet of Ice" on I-84 West in Plainville


Crews from the state Department of Transportation responded to treat Interstate 84 West in Plainville after several spin-outs at the Route 72 merge.

The back-to-back crashes came as snow melts after a weekend storm

There were also at least five crashes on the Merritt Parkweay in Greenwich, between exits 27 and 28, on both the northbound and southbound sides of the road.

The Saturday storm mainly hit the shoreline, while other parts of the state, like northwestern Litchfield County, saw very little impact. 

Melting and refreezing will be the theme of this week, so use caution and watch for black ice in the mornings!

Today, we'll see sunshine mixed with clouds and highs will reach 35 to 40 degrees. 

New Haven received between 8 and 12 inches of snow and the roads are clear, but there it's possible there could be slick spots today, particularly in parking lots and on sidewalks, according to First Alert Meteorologist Bob Maxon. 

The range of snowfall totals in the state is vast. Some shoreline towns at the southwestern tip of Connecticut saw as much as 16, while northwestern towns, like Litchfield, saw no more than a half inch or perhaps no snow at all.

Mostly cloudy skies arrive on Tuesday ahead of a cold front and afternoon and evening rain and snow showers are possible with temperatures peaking near 40.

Cold air moves in, at least aloft, on Wednesday, and that could yield a flurry in the hills.

Temperatures will reach the low 40s earlier in the day and the weather will be mild. 

Mostly sunny skies make another appearance Thursday before clouds move in Friday.

An offshore storm needs to be watched as the workweek comes to a close.

Temperatures, especially the highs, remain above average throughout the week.

Photo Credit: Connecticut Department of Transportation

Bridgeport Opens Disaster Relief Center Following NYE Fire


The city of Bridgeport is opening a temporary Disaster Loan Outreach Center following a New Year's Eve fire that displaced more than 120 people.

On Jan. 26, Senator Chris Murphy, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and the senior area manager of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Frank Alvarado will announce the opening of the temporary center at the Margaret MOrton Government Center.

The center will help homeowners, renters and business owners impacted by fire and help them recover. Officials want people affected by the fire to apply for financial relief through federal SBA low-interest loans. In addition, victims will be able to come to the center to apply for assistance and receive in-person help, a statement put out Murphy's office said.

A conference will be held on Jan. 26 at 1:00 pm for anyone with questions about the new relief center. 

WHERE: Margaret Morton Government Center
City Hall Annex
Conference Room A and B, 1st Floor
999 Broad Street
Bridgeport, CT

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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