One more reason for public water

WV American Water submitted its application for an “Infrastructure Replacement Program” surcharge (rate increase) to the Public Service Commission last month. The company wants to earn a 9.75% return on the investments covered by this surcharge. These investments will be pre-approved by the PSC and the water company will collect the money upfront; there is no reason for them to earn such high profits on investments with virtually no risk.

Yesterday the Charleston Gazette-Mail had a story noting that the surcharge will generate $821,000 in profit for WV American Water in less than two years "and even more from 2018 to 2020."

We sometime hear that public water is a bad idea because private companies are always more efficient. Efficient at what? And for whom?

It certainly doesn’t appear to be “efficient” to pay WV American Water to invest in our infrastructure replacement.

We need to investigate other, less expensive options for financing necessary infrastructure repairs. Financing infrastructure investments with public debt would almost certainly be less expensive than paying WV American Water a 9.75% return on their investments.

 

This is exactly why we need the Kanawha County Commission and the City of Charleston to start exploring options for a public water system.

Public Service Commission to continue with investigation of WV American WAter

The Public Service Commission finally issued an order on Monday announcing that it is going to continue with the investigation of WV American Water's response to the 2014 chemical spill. In December, the PSC had expressed concern with the potential overlap between its investigation and the sourcewater planning efforts that the water company is required to do by Senate Bill 373, leading to speculation that the PSC was looking for an excuse to drop the investigation entirely.

WV American Water strongly argued in favor of dropping the investigation. We and other parties in the case argued otherwise. And we won! In Monday's order the PSC (or, more accurately, the 2 commissioners hearing this case since Chairman Albert recused himself) said, "We ... are persuaded that the Commission is not precluded from proceeding at this time"

Yet there are also parts of Monday's order that are less than ideal:

1. The PSC appears to be dealing with the potential conflict with SB 373 by delaying the schedule. It set the case for hearing in November - well after the water company will have filed its sourcewater protection plan with the Bureau for Public Health this summer. And the PSC probably won't rule on the case until after the Bureau has determined whether the sourcewater protection plan is adequate -- meaning that any lessons from the investigation won't be available to Bureau in making that judgement.

2. The PSC declined our request for additional discovery in this case, meaning that the PSC does not plan to look at any new information that has come to light after November 2014.