The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 19, 2013

W.Va. PSC to host public hearing on 2 rate hikes

By C.V. Moore
Register-Herald Reporter

FAYETTEVILLE — Fayette County residents could be facing sharp increases in their sewer and water utility bills if the Public Service Commission (PSC) approves two rate hike requests by West Virginia American Water (WVAW) this year.

Before they make the call, they are asking the public to weigh in.

A public hearing this evening offers Fayette County citizens the opportunity to comment on the issue. The hearing begins at 6:30 p.m.  at the Fayette County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building, located  at 221 Maple Ave. in Fayetteville.

The water company is asking for a 63 percent increase in sewer rates for Fayetteville customers and a 20 percent increase for water customers in all of Fayette County.

Today’s hearing covers both cases currently before the PSC that are relevant to Fayette County.

Case No. 12-1648-S-42T could affect 1,100 sewer customers in Fayetteville. WVAW wants to raise $476,000 through a 63 percent rate  increase.

The residential minimum bill for 2,500 gallons of wastewater would jump from $28.75 to $47.65, a yearly increase of $226.80.

WVAW acquired the Town of Fayetteville’s sewer system in 2008. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection had ordered the town to make significant improvements in its system, which the town said it couldn’t afford.

The company says it has invested $682,000 in infrastructure improvements since then “to bring this troubled system into regulatory  compliance.”

The PSC approved WVAW’s acquisition of the system but set a two-year freeze on wastewater rates and required the utility to invest $1.5  million in the system.

Originally, the company had asked for an 81 percent rate increase, but last December they corrected an error in their rate calculation to  reflect the new 63 percent request.

The other case that will be discussed on Wednesday, No. 12-1649-W-42-T, concerns WVAW’s request to raise $24 million through a 20 percent  rate increase affecting 171,000 customers in 19 counties. This includes all Fayette County WVAW customers.

The minimum bill for residential customers who use no more than 1,500 gallons of water would jump from $21.67 to $26.17.

Already, dozens of protest letters have been delivered to the PSC for  both cases.

The PSC’s Consumer Advocate Division has intervened in the cases, citing “potential adverse effects on ratepayers.”

A full review is under way, with evidentiary hearings scheduled July 8-11 in Charleston.

The rate increases wouldn’t be effective before Oct. 11.

Filings for both cases are available to the public at the PSC’s website. Visit http://www.psc. state.wv.us/, click on “Case Information,” “Case,” enter the case numbers above, and then click on “Activities.”

All protests and comments should be addressed to The Secretary, Public Service Commission of West Virginia, P.O. Box 812, Charleston, WV,  25323. Include the case numbers.

— Email: cmoore@register-herald.com