West Virginia American Must Continue Public Water Projects, PSC Orders

Charleston Gazette
7 April 2014
By Rusty Marks

URL: http://wvgazette.com/article/20140407/GZ01/140409424

Officials for the state Public Service Commission on Monday ordered West Virginia American Water to continue public water projects, after the utility had said it wasn’t legally required to participate in the projects.

Water company officials slashed funding for public-private water partnerships all over the state in 2011, not long after the PSC turned town $10 million of a requested $15 million rate increase.

Among the funding canceled by the water company was the company's commitment to a $1.1 million water extension in the Leatherwood and Reamer Hills areas of Kanawha County. The project would have brought water to about 145 families, some of whom had been trying to get public water for 40 years.

Officials at the Public Service Commission believe the water company's decision to drop water partnerships that were under consideration kept about 1,500 families around the state from getting public water.

Water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said water company officials were reviewing the order.

Kanawha County officials and officials for seven other entities around the state filed a complaint with the PSC in October 2011, alleging the water company had improperly withdrawn support of the water projects. Many officials at the time accused the water company of slashing funding to get back at the state for turning down the rate increase.

Water company officials said they cut the partnerships because they could no longer afford to help communities extend water lines.

But in an order issued Monday, the PSC ruled that West Virginia American Water has an obligation to take part in “technically and economically feasible” water projects, according to the ruling. PSC officials ordered that West Virginia American must continue support of “projects [that] would serve new customers who are located within areas that could reasonably be served by WVAWC.”

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, who was livid when water company officials cut out the partnerships in 2011, was happy to learn of the PSC’s order.
“I’m grateful to the Public Service Commission,” he said. “What a novel concept. The water company has to stay in the water business.”

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.