Thursday, January 18, 2018

PUC Approves Tentative Order Covering Oversight Of Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority

The Public Utility Commission Thursday approved and posted for public comment a Tentative Implementation Order for Act 65 of 2017, addressing Commission oversight of water, wastewater and storm water services by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.
The Tentative Order, approved by a 5-0 vote, proposes methods for ratemaking, tariff approval, compliance plans, infrastructure improvements, consumer protection and other implementation issues.
As part of this process, the Commission has invited interested parties to provide comment on the tentative proposals and relevant statutory interpretations, and offer any additional recommendations for consideration.  Comments should be submitted within 20 days of the entry of this Order.
“This is a unique situation for everyone involved – including Pittsburgh residents and businesses, PWSA staff, local and state leaders, and other concerned parties, along with the PUC,” said Commission Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “We look forward to input from stakeholders and remain committed to working collaboratively to address these complex issues.”
Under the plan outlined in the Tentative Order, existing PWSA rates and terms of service will remain in place as a temporary measure, until the Commission reviews and approves a rate filing from the Authority.
Proposed tariffs for water and wastewater service must be filed no later than July 2, and those tariffs would be subject to the PUC’s normal ratemaking process to determine just and reasonable rates, including a Commission investigation, public input and the ability for parties to voice their concerns.
The Tentative Order also details proposed changes in the handling of consumer complaints.
Beginning on April 2, the Commission proposes to begin accepting complaints from PWSA customers – either as informal complaints submitted to the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services (1-800-692-7380 and online) or as formal complaints filed with the Commission.
Under the Tentative Order, the Commission also proposes to accept informal and formal complaints as of April 2, marking the end of the PWSA’s current Exoneration Hearing Board as an adjudicative body, with the Commission reviewing customer complaints in accordance with the due process rights detailed in the Public Utility Code and the Commission’s regulations.
The Tentative Order also requires PWSA to file a compliance plan by September 28, to ensure compliance for regulatory issues not addressed in the tariff filing--  including a Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan--  detailing how PWSA intends to replace or upgrade targeted facilities, and how that will improve reliability, adequacy and safety.
Comments regarding the Tentative Implementation Order should be submitted by the close of business (4:30 p.m. EST) on February 7. Comments should be filed with the Commission’s Secretary, at docket numbers M-2018-2640802 and M-2018-2640803. Instructions for e-filing are on the PUC website.
Comments may also be filed in writing, by overnight delivery, certified or priority mail. Written comments should be addressed to: Secretary, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Commonwealth Keystone Building, 400 North Street, Harrisburg, PA 17120
Chairman Brown noted that today’s Tentative Order is part of a comprehensive Commission effort to address the PUC’s responsibilities related to PWSA.
“We have established an internal PUC Working Group, bringing together experts from across the Commission to explore issues regarding PWSA,” Chairman Brown explained. “Those team members have been meeting with and gathering preliminary information from PWSA, and working to explain state regulations and PUC processes to leadership at the Authority, as we work to set a course for implementing Act 65.”
Additionally, the Commission will be scheduling public “listening tour” events in the coming weeks-- providing Pittsburgh residents and businesses with an opportunity to voice their vision for the future of their water and wastewater services--  along with “consumer education” events, to ensure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities under various consumer protection regulations and the PUC process for reviewing utility rates.
Those event dates will be announced shortly.

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