Rate increase has nothing to do with improving water system safety, water company says

WV American Water asked the Public Service Commission to exclude the community group Advocates for a Safe Water System from participating in the company’s rate case before the Commission. In a motion filed with the Commission earlier this week, WV American Water gave a number of reasons that the Commission should exclude Advocates for a Safe Water System from the case, including that Advocates’ focus on water system safety issues is irrelevant. According to the company:

[T]he Commission will not be required to address any safety-related regulatory or policy issues; consequently, there is no reason to allow interventions motivated primarily by supposed water system safety concerns.

 
And

Recommendations on water safety issues are not “reasonably pertinent” to the Company’s rate … case.

 
We know that we have a serious infrastructure problem – as I write this, a major main break is affecting nearly 25,000 customers in Kanawha and Putnam counties. It will take nearly 400 years to replace the water mains at the current rate. And the Kanawha Valley’s water system loses more than a third of its water to leaks – a fact that presumably contributed to the company’s decision not to shut off its intake on January 9, 2014. Fixing these problems requires money for investment, which has to be paid for – through rates or through public funds in some way.

The company has already said that the main driver of its proposed rate increase is capital investments – it wants ratepayers to pay for nearly $200 million in recent and proposed capital expenditures. Is it really saying that none of these investments have anything to do with improving the safety and reliability of its water system?

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