CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- On Wednesday night, the Public Service Commission of West Virginia issued an order granting West Virginia American Water Company a lower increase than requested.
According to a release, the PSC issued an order granting an increase of $18.17 million, that's 15.1 percent, in water rates and $151,000 (19.8 percent) in sewer rates.
WVAWC had originally requested a $35.472 million (28.18 percent) increase in water rates and $176,895 (22.3 percent) increase in sewer rates.
The release from the PSC states that the average WVAWC residential water customer uses 3,256 gallons per month; that's equal to an increase on a monthly bill of $6.26.
“Yesterday’s (Wednesday's) Public Service Commission order supports the company’s ability to maintain high standards of water quality, system improvements and customer service,” said Jeffrey McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water. “Although the company’s review of the combined 162 pages of orders is in its early stages, the Commission appears to have taken a thorough, deliberate approach to balance the interests of our current and future customers, the economy and our company.”
The Public Service Commission held eight public comment hearings on these cases throughout WVAWC's service territory.
"This increase will be extremely difficult for many West Virginians to afford, especially elderly residents and those on a fixed income," Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy. "Social security was not increased at all this year, and most residents saw little or no increase in wages -- but at the same time West Virginians are being asked to pay a double digit increase for a necessity such as water."
According to the release, the PSC denied the company's request to use a future test year for determining rates, and canceled the use of an Allowance for Funds After Construction.
Evidence in the case cited by the PSC states that the company had actually reduced its operation and maintenance expenses from its last rate case.
“The County was an active participant in the case, and I am confident our involvement helped convey the public’s serious concerns to the Public Service Commission. Many Kanawha County residents already have a difficult time paying their utility bills, and this rate increase will certainly increase that burden” stated Commissioner Hardy.
Commissioner Hardy went on to add, "the County Commission will throughly review the Public Service Commission's ruling, and will coordinate with the Consumer Advocate Division regarding any additional action in the case."
West Virginia American Water serves approximately 170,000 water customers in Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, Mercer, Putnam, Raleigh, Roane, Summers, Wayne and Webster counties, and 1,050 sewer customers in Fayette County.
This is the fifth rate increase since 2007.
A rate case filed in December 2012 requested a 19.7% overall revenue increase of $24 million. The PSC approved a stipulated settlement for a 6.7% general rate increase of $8.3 million that went into effect in October 2013 and increased the average monthly residential bill by $2.77. As part of that increase, WVAW couldn't file for another rate increase before January of 2015.
A rate case filed in June 2010 requested a 13 percent overall revenue increase of $15.6 million. The PSC approved a 4.4 percent general rate increase of $5.1 million that went into effect in April 2011 and increased the average monthly residential bill by $1.76.
A rate case filed in May 2008 requested a 13.3 percent overall revenue increase of $15.8 million. The PSC approved a 4.3 percent general rate increase of $5.1 million that went into effect in March 2009 and increased the average monthly residential bill by $1.78.
A rate case filed in June 2007 requested a 23.4 percent overall revenue increase of $24 million. The PSC approved a 14 percent general rate increase of $14.5 million that went into effect in March 2008 and increased the average monthly residential bill by $5.10.
According to West Virginia American Water, the vast majority of increases sought in these cases were associated with necessary, ongoing improvements and replacements in water treatment plants and distributions systems.