Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Water Company Argues for Plan to Apply Surcharge

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Water Company Argues for Plan to Apply Surcharge

Article excerpt

West Virginia American Water is calling on the Public Service Commission, the state agency responsible for regulating utilities, to uphold the company's application for an infrastructure surcharge that could allow the company to recover $88.8 million in spending over the next four years. Lawyers for the water company filed a response Tuesday, opposing a recent motion by the Consumer Advocate Division that argued the three-member commission does not have the authority to approve a separate surcharge for the company, which supplies water to 169,000 customers in West Virginia.

Lawyers with the consumer advocate have said the PSC cannot approve the surcharge, which would give West Virginia American money upfront before it undertakes improvement projects, because the West Virginia Legislature holds that power after lawmakers approved surcharges for gas and electric utilities in the last two legislative sessions.

Chris Callas, the Jackson Kelly attorney representing West Virginia American Water, says the company does not agree with that legal argument.

"As with other specialized rate-making mechanisms it has used over the years, the commission's general rate-making authority is sufficient to implement the [infrastructure replacement program] for the company, Callas said, "regardless of whether the Legislature has enacted specific tools for gas and electric utilities.

The adamant opposition to American Water's request for an infrastructure surcharge follows a PSC order in February that approved an additional $18.2 million annually for the water company, raising the average customer's bill to more than $47 per month, or $570 per year. If approved, the surcharge would initially add another 89 cents per month, on average, and would likely increase further in the following years.

The PSC order from February seems to suggest that the commissioners believe they have the authority to approve an infrastructure surcharge for West Virginia American Water, which is by far the largest water utility in the state. …

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