Thursday, March 26, 2020

PUC Adopts Modified Settlement With Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority

On March 26, the Public Utility Commission approved plans to address a variety of compliance and infrastructure issues for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) – which was placed under the PUC’s jurisdiction by the state legislature under Act 65 of 2017.
The Commission voted 5-0 o adopt and modify a joint partial settlement supported by numerous stakeholders involved in the PWSA case, including PWSA and the Offices of Consumer Advocate and Small Business Advocate.
As part of the ongoing effort to ensure that PWSA complies with Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Code and PUC rules and regulations related to water, wastewater and stormwater, PWSA was directed to file a plan to address numerous regulatory issues not directly included in their rate case filings, including but not limited to the following:
-- Issues related to lead, including - lead levels in the water supply; the inventory and replacement of lead service lines; various programs associated with the prioritization and replacement of residential private-side and private-line lead service lines; incorporation of related parameters in PSWA’s Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP), and modification of the partial settlement regarding partial lead service line replacements with due regard for public health and safety;
-- Jurisdictional issues involving lead service line replacement;
-- PWSA’s continuous collaboration with the Community Lead Response Advisory Committee (CLRAC) on issues of lead service line replacements;
-- Identifying unmetered accounts (including City of Pittsburgh properties and those of City-affiliated non-profit institutions), plans to meter all customers within its service area, installing meters, and imposing minimum charges to non-billed municipal properties until the meters are installed;
-- PWSA compliance with the PUC’s line extension regulations and associated one-year waiver;
-- A billing plan for the City’s fire hydrants;
-- The impact of the residency requirement for PWSA’s labor force and the provision of adequate, reliable, safe, efficient and reasonable service;
-- The future implementation of a storm water tariff; and,
-- A long-term infrastructure improvement plan to guide future system remediation and enhancement projects.
The PUC’s 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.
Unless a party to the settlement elects to withdraw from the settlement approved today during the next five business days, PWSA is directed to file a revised compliance plan within 30 days of the entry date of the Commission’s Opinion and Order.
The revised PWSA compliance plan will address the following:
-- That the 1995 Cooperation Agreement be terminated, and business transactions conducted with the City of Pittsburgh be required to occur on a transactional basis until a new Cooperation -- Agreement is reviewed and approved by the Commission;
-- That the Compliance Plan be revised to require PWSA to become responsible for the cost of all meter installation;
-- That the Compliance Plan be revised to require PWSA to introduce a flat rate, at minimum the customer charge for the customer’s class, for all unbilled customers in its next base rate case, and, as customers are metered, to immediately bill full usage;
-- Plans to address the residency requirement for PWSA’s labor force, which has not been found to be consistent with PWSA’s obligations to provide adequate, reliable, safe, efficient, and reasonable service under the Public Utility Code; and,
-- That the Compliance Plan be revised to include a single document, setting forth the entirety of PWSA’s lead infrastructure plan.
Additionally, PWSA is required to continue to file quarterly Compliance Plan Progress Reports through Oct. 31, 2025, supplementing those already filed with the Commission during the review of their initial compliance plan. The quarterly reports will provide updates on Operations; Billing & Customer Service; Lead; Infrastructure; and Finance, Contractual and Other Issues. 
The Joint Petition for Partial Settlement was filed by PWSA, the independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement of the PUC, the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate, the Office of Small Business Advocate, Pittsburgh UNITED and Pennsylvania-American Water Company.
[Posted: March 26, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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