PUC:?Water rate increase sought

The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has scheduled seven public hearings to gather input before making a decision on whether to grant Pennsylvania American Water a requested rate increase.

The requested increase would raise an average residential customer’s monthly bill to approximately $58.63, an increase of $6.12 per month. According to a Pennsylvania American press release, the average residential customer uses 3,960 gallons of water per month.

The increase would raise the price an average customer pays for one day’s worth of water to approximately $1.95 and their price per gallon to approximately 1.5 cents.

The average commercial customer, using 22,000 gallons per month, would see an increase from $231.57 to $254.10 per month.

The average industrial customer, using 475,600 gallons per month, would see its bill increase from $3,602.78 per month to $3,840.67 per month.

Rate changes vary by company water division.

In a statement issued at the time of the request, Pennsylvania American cited infrastructure investment plans as the driving force behind the proposed increase.

“This rate request is driven by the prudent capital investments that we’ve made to maintain and upgrade our infrastructure,” Pennsylvania American President Kathy Pape said. “We believe proactive capital improvements are more cost-effective and save money in the long run.”

In an e-mail at the time, Gary Lobaugh, the company’s external affairs manager for western Pennsylvania, said, “There is never a good time to ask for a rate increase, and we realize the economy is still recovering. Pennsylvania American Water has a responsibility to properly maintain and upgrade our systems to ensure quality, reliable water service and fire protection for the communities we serve. We believe it is only fair that we are reimbursed for these prudent and necessary investments.”

According to a PUC news release on the hearings, the request proposes an annual increase in revenues of approximately $58.6 million, which amounts to a little over 10 percent.

Pennsylvania American Water’s parent company, American Water, announced a net income increase of approximately $16 million over the first quarter of 2013 and a 12 percent increase in dividends in a May 17 earnings report.

Customer comments from the hearings will, “become part of the record on which the PUC will issue its final decision,” according to the release.

PUC provided tips for members of the public planning to attend a hearing, including:

Prepare what you are going to say beforehand. Even though it is not required, you may want to write out your statement, which can be read.

Bring copies, if you are attending an in-person hearing. If you have a written statement you would like to give to the judge as evidence, please bring two copies for the court reporter and several copies for the other participants.

Plan to be questioned. Parties in the case may want to ask you a question to clarify something you said.

No hearings are being held locally or in northwest Pennsylvania. The nearest hearing will be held in Pittsburgh at 6:30 p.m. on July 22 at the Shaler Villa Volunteer Fire Company, 960 Saxonburg Boulevard.