PSC investigation of WV American Water on hold – again

The PSC’s investigation of WV American Water is once again on hold due to a shortage of Commissioners.

Wednesday was Commissioner McKinney’s last day; McKinney had announced his retirement earlier in December. McKinney’s term had actually expired in 2011, but state law had allowed him to continue serving because the Governor did not appoint anyone to replace him.

Once again, the Commission is down to one Commissioner (the newly-appointed Brooks McCabe) in the investigation of WV American Water’s response to the January 9, 2014 chemical leak; Chairman Albert had recused himself from the case in August due to his history as a JacksonKelly attorney representing WV American Water before the PSC. Under West Virginia law, the PSC cannot take any action without a quorum of two commissioners, so the case is case is again stalled until the Governor appoints a replacement for McKinney.

The last action taken by the Commission in this case was an order issued on December 23rd that found that the water company had withheld too much information from the public when it redacted its confidential documents. For example, the order notes, “the 1-800 number for the Public Service Commission was inexplicably labeled as ‘Highly Sensitive Confidential Information.’” The order directs the water company to try again and re-file the documents with fewer redactions by January 16, 2015.

It is almost exactly a year after the chemical leak and the PSC’s investigation has been hampered both by high turnover at the Commission and by the water company’s own foot-dragging. Let’s hope that Governor Tomblin acts quickly to appoint a knowledgeable and public interest-minded commissioner.

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