By Paul J. Nyden,
The Charleston Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia American Water Company is asking for a 28 percent rate increase from the state Public Service Commission.
If the PSC approved the rate hike, average residential customers — who use 3,256 gallons of water each month — would see their monthly water bills increase by $11.63. Their total monthly costs would rise from $41.27 to $52.90.
In a statement, West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said the main factor in the increase is the work the company has done on its system since 2012 — about $105 million worth, according to the company — plus another $98 million for work the company plans to do by February 2017.
“Even after the proposed increase, the cost of water delivered to homes and businesses is $1.74 per day, or $635 per year for the average residential customer, which is still about a penny per gallon and a great value for such an important service,” the company said in its news release.
The water company’s request to the PSC also asks for a 22 percent increase in wastewater rates.
The rate increase request does not include any costs related to the Freedom Industries chemical spill. The company will “seek to recover the spill related costs in a separate future proceeding,” according to its statement.
The company’s last rate increase came in 2013. The company originally asked for a 19.7 percent rate increase, but settled for 7.1 percent after negotiations with the PSC.
Jackie Roberts, director of the PSC’s Consumer Advocate Division, wasn’t ready to offer an opinion on the proposed rate hike Thursday. She said the formal request the company sent to the PSC is 20 inches high.
“The statutory requirement is that this case has to be decided in 300 days. Sometime next year, there will be a resolution of this case. During that period of time, our experts will analyze this case and make our own determination about what West Virginia American Water is entitled to in a rate relief and rate increase.
She said the utility was right not to try to recover costs from the Freedom spill yet. We believe it would be premature to seek the recovery of such expenses and would only serve to complicate this case,” she said.
West Virginia American Water, which serves about one-third of the state’s population, said recent improvements include upgrades “necessary to maintain and improve water quality” to the water distribution system include water treatment facilities, storage tanks and pumping stations upgrades.
“The rate request is primarily driven by the capital investments we have made to maintain and upgrade our infrastructure while creating new jobs,” McIntyre said in the news release.
He also said people are using less water, locally and nationally, and that this request includes $1.1 million less in operations and maintenance expenses than the utility’s 2013 request.
Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper said, “From time to time, every utility has to have a rate increase. But 28 percent?
“They previously said we would see a rate increase to pay for the chemical spill. Now they say the 28 percent increase does not include that. What does this mean?
“They have done a lot of work and it is good for them to invest. They have to have capital to do it. But what do they expect people to think about this?” Carper asked.
To read more visit, http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150430/GZ01/150439954/1419
Reach Paul J. Nyden at [email protected] or 304-348-5164.