A 28 percent hike in water rates hard to justify

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch 

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — When West Virginia American Water announced that it was seeking a 28 percent increase in the rates it charges customers, many people’s first thoughts were that the utility must be attempting to recover costs stemming from the January 2014 chemical leak that disrupted water service to about 300,000 customers.

What else could explain such a hefty proposed increase in its rates?

But that’s not the case, the water company said. That will come in a separate rate request to the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

So what justifies the proposal that was filed last week?

In explaining the rate request, the company pointed to two primary reasons. One is that the company has made about $105 million in system improvements since 2012. The other is that the company plans to invest $98 million more in the system over the next two years. The proposed rate increase will yield the company about $35 million a year, it said in a news release.

The size of the rate request is problematic for several reasons, chief of which is the impact on the utility’s 550,000 customers in the Mountain State…

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