In the week following the public hearing where more than 100 ratepayers packed the Public Service Commission in opposition to the proposed 28% rate hike, the Public Service Commission held an evidentiary hearing on the proposed rate increase. At the hearing, witnesses for the company were cross examined by lawyers for other parties, including Advocates for a Safe Water System. The transcripts from that hearing just came out this week.
One proposal in the case would require the water company to file an annual plan for investments in main replacement and to place a charge on customers' bills specifically for paying for main replacement.
An American Water employee brought in to testify about this proposal told the Commission that he did not recommend allowing other parties (like Advocates for a Safe Water System, the City of Charleston, Kanawha County or any other public-interest group) to participate in reviewing the company's plans. Such a process would be "cumbersome and costly and not necessary."
This statement perfectly captures WV American Water's (and its parent company, American Water's) attitude towards ratepayer involvement in our water system. The water company has insisted on a high degree of confidentiality regarding its planning documents, refused to answer basic questions about its emergency planning and preparedness for the January 9th chemical leak, and opposed Advocates for a Safe Water System's involvement in its rate case.
American Water has no interest in being transparent or accountable to our community. We need a public water system that can put our interests first.