West Virginia Press Association Capitol Reporter
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senator Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, did not hold back when voicing his opinion on Senate Bill 467, which would clarify the West Virginia Public Service Commission’s jurisdiction over water and sewer utilities owned by political subdivisions.
Douglas Smith and Amy Swann of the West Virginia Rural Water Association spoke to the Senate Government Organization Committee about their work and responded to Facemire’s questions about when their organization was taken out from under the PSC in 2015. Smith said he did not remember specific numbers, but knew that sewer rates were raised by 80 percent and water rates by 45 percent.
Facemire replied, “I can see where that’s good for you and your operating board, but I’m not so sure how good that is for your customers.”
The senator then said he felt concerned that the committee was only hearing from larger areas of the state.
He said, “We’ve already given them the ability to be out from under the public service and they seem to be ok with it, and I’m not in a position to argue that one way or another … I’ve noticed that everybody that’s here that’s for this has a lobbyist … but I don’t see anybody who is representing the people that live in these small communities that will be taken under this.”
He referred to an earlier meeting when a representative from the PSC said they felt their organization was doing well at accomplishing its goals and said he did not have reason not to believe them and went back to Smith and Swann’s comments about the WVRWA raising its customer’s rates.
“They say their people are ok with that. I can tell you where I live, the people would not be OK with that. See, I represent rural areas where people are struggling. They’re having a hard time making it right now. I do not think that taking the controls of the rates away from an independent agency. . .would be in the best interest of our citizens in these smaller areas. . .and for that reason, I’m against this bill.”
After a vote, the bill was defeated 6-7.