Thursday, February 7, 2019

PUC Approves 13 Percent Increase In Pittsburgh Water Authority Rates

On February 7, the Public Utility Commission voted to approve a joint settlement which includes a 13 percent increase in water and wastewater service rates for the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority.
Thanks to a legal agreement negotiated by local advocacy organizations like Pittsburgh United, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority will now safely replace thousands of its lead water lines and take significant new steps toward protecting residents’ drinking water.  Click Here for more.
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.
The 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.
Items related to this action can be found in PUC Dockets-- R-2018-3002645 and
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.
The PWSA proposed water and wastewater infrastructure improvement plans can be found under separate PUC dockets-- water (Docket No. P-2018-3005037) and wastewater (Docket No. P-2018-3005039). The procedures for considering the plans were established as a result of Act 11 of 2012 (Docket No. M-2012-2293611).
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.
For more information on what Authority customers can do to reduce their lead exposure risk, visit the Authority’s Community Lead Response webpage.
Visit DEP’s Pittsburgh Water Authority webpage for more information on DEP’s actions on the lead service line issue in Pittsburgh.
For more information on health threats from lead in drinking water, visit DEP’s Lead In Drinking Water webpage.

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