HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today voted to approve a joint settlement which includes smaller than requested rate increases for water and wastewater services provided by the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA).
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the joint settlement, which will increase PWSA annual revenues by $21 million – or approximately 13 percent – compared to the $27 million per year increase (17.1 percent) that was included in PWSA’s initial request.
Under the terms of the settlement, the monthly bill for a typical residential water and wastewater conveyance customer using 3,000 gallons of water per month will increase by $8.87, from $63.62 to $72.49 per month (13.9 percent) – as compared to a proposed increase of $10.61 per month (16.7 percent) included in PWSA’s initial request.
Additionally, the total bill for a commercial customer using 13,000 gallons per month will increase from $234.00 to $265.96 per month (13.7 percent); rates for an industrial customer using 680,000 gallons per month will increase from $9,409.52 to $10,649.49 per month (13.2 percent); and rates for a health or education customer using 50,000 gallons per month will increase from $1,031.30 to $1,171.86 per month (13.6 percent).
The joint settlement also addresses a number of other areas, such as:
The ongoing program for the replacement of lead service lines, including the formation of the Community Lead Response Advisory Committee, and related coordination with the City of Pittsburgh.
Customer service issues including the modification of customer bills, revisions in customer termination notices, the availability of payment arrangements as permitted by Ch. 14 of the Public Utility Code.
Low-income customer issues such as the collection of additional data, funding for the Bill Discount Program and its availability to eligible consumers, and the formation of the Low Income Assistance Advisory Committee that will include the Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Services, the Dollar Energy Fund, and local community and social service groups.
Today’s decision by the Commission comes following an extensive investigation of the PWSA rate request, which included public input hearings in the Pittsburgh area and detailed evidence and testimony by advocates, consumer groups and other concerned stakeholders.
PWSA provides service to more than 300,000 residents and businesses in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities.
Other PWSA Matters Under PUC Review
In addition to the review of PWSA rates, the Commission also continues to analyze Compliance Plans for water and wastewater service, which were submitted to the PUC in Sept. 2018 – as required by statute. Those proposals address numerous regulatory issues not directly included in the rate case filing, such as lead levels in the water supply and the replacement of lead service lines; a metering plan identifying unmetered accounts and plans to meter all customers; the future implementation of a stormwater tariff; and numerous consumer protection issues.
In Nov. 2018 the PUC’s technical staff issued an Initial Report and Directed Duestions on the Compliance Plans – offering a series of questions that parties to the compliance plan proceeding should explore as the review process continues to move forward.
PUC review of the PWSA compliance plans has been divided into a two-stage process – focusing first on urgent infrastructure remediation and improvement, and the revenue and financing requirements of maintaining service that supports public health and safety, to be followed by a second stage to address PWSA billing and collection issues and the development of a proposed stormwater tariff.
PUC Oversight of PWSA
Act 65 of 2017 established PUC oversight of water, wastewater and storm water services by entities created by Pennsylvania cities of the second class – specifically, the PWSA. The PUC assumed jurisdiction over PWSA on April 1, 2018.
As part of that process, PWSA rates for water and wastewater services became subject to the PUC’s normal ratemaking process, which is used to determine just and reasonable rates and allows public input and the ability for parties to voice their concerns.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
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