Pictured: The table shows what water rates would be for Anthem customers under the five-year phase-in plan if the Arizona Corporation Commission agrees to consolidate EPCOR's 11 water districts. The rate shown is for a 3/4 meter in Anthem, rates include all applicable credits and surcharges.
Image courtesy of EPCOR

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Last chance to file public comments with the AZ Corporation Commission about EPCOR's water rate case, consolidation


Tara Alatorre
ANTHEM – The Arizona Corporation Commission will begin hearings on May 14 regarding the consolidation of the private utility company EPCOR's recommendation to consolidate its 11 Arizona water districts, which would establish equal water rates for all its customers statewide.

The water rate case was originally brought on by a decision in 2015 from the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) requiring EPCOR to file the case no later than July 2018.  In 2017, EPCOR filed the water rate case and recommended consolidating its 11 water districts into one large district, which included a five-year phase-in plan for all its customers resulting in an average rate of $44.95 for 7,000 gallons of usage.

“As proposed, the new rates are intended to result in an increase in revenues of $21.5 million,” according to the rate case application filed by ECPCOR on August 18, 2017.  “The majority of the proposed increase in revenues is to recover increased operating expenses, including purchased power and water.”
( Pictured: A map of EPCOR's water districts in Maricopa County.
Map courtesy of EPCOR)

While consolidation would ultimately result in lower rates for most districts, Sun City, Sun City West and Mohave districts would see an increase in rates if the consolidation is approved by the ACC.

Anthem currently pays the fourth highest rates in all 11 districts, which is $50.91 for 7,000 gallons of water with the average customer using 9,000 gallons a billing cycle.  Sun City and Sun City West are paying some of the lowest rates, and would see an increase ranging from about 17 to 50 percent in water rates if EPCOR consolidates, according to documents filed with the ACC.

“It is imperative that ECPOR ratepayers in Anthem file public comments so that the Commissioners hear directly from residents about how you feel about this case and your water rates,” stated an email sent out by the Anthem Community Council.
If the consolidation moves forward EPCOR would begin phasing in new rates over the next five years to all its districts in Arizona, so the company can gradually implement the same rate to all its customers.  
( Pictured: A map of EPCOR's water districts in Maricopa County.
Map courtesy of EPCOR)


The new consolidated phased-in rates would increase Anthem’s water rate to $72.46 in the first year of implementation, gradually decreasing to $44.95 by year five, which would result in an 8 percent decrease from current rates.

If the consolidation is not approved by the ACC and the status quo of 11 separate EPCOR water districts continues Anthem rates will jump to $78.10 for 7,000 gallons, which is over a 50 percent increase, according to supporting documents filed by EPCOR regarding the rate case.

The Anthem Community Council is for the consolidation and has delegated utilities panel members to intervene on behalf of its residents.  The council is also strongly encouraging residents to file public comments with the ACC supporting the consolidation.

“Residents in other districts are already inundating the Commission with opinions - mostly against consolidation,” stated the Anthem email. “Therefore, Anthem must act now.”

According to EPCOR it needs to invest in more than $430 million over the next decade for infrastructure improvement on all its Arizona water systems, which is why it is recommending consolidation rather than implement stand-alone raised rates.  Stand-alone raised rates would cause a net increase in each district.

“Full consolidation of these districts is the most equitable approach to establish reasonable rates to recover the reasonable expenses and capital expenditures that will ultimately impact every district in the future,” EPCOR stated in the rate case application.

The consolidation with the phase-in plan reduces rate shock while increasing operating efficiencies, while stand-alone rates would cause increases in each district and be implemented with no phase-in.

“Under full consolidation, all water customers will benefit from predictable, uniform rate structures, reduced regulatory expenses, and increased operating efficiencies,” according to the application.

The application filed by EPCOR also requested a low-income assistance program, service member credits and a disabled veterans’ assistance programs in each of its districts where there are none.

EPCOR would reduce the monthly water rate by $10 per month for eligible low-income customers, which is a total of 3,065 customers. It also proposed to provide a credit for up to 550 deployed service members that would cover the basic service charge plus any taxes on the monthly water bill. As well as a giving a $10 monthly credit to disabled Veterans that will be administered on a first-come, first-serve basis for up to 2,000 participants.

Ultimately the ACC will get to decide if it agrees with EPCOR’s recommendation for consolidating as its commissioners review financial data from 2016 evaluating the utility company’s expenses, return on investment and operating costs.  The ACC is expected to decide on EPCOR’s water rate case by September 2018.

EPCOR, which services the community of Anthem, is required to inform its customers about the upcoming rate case and has held two public meetings in Anthem over the last year.

Customers of EPCOR can file a public comment with the ACC regarding the rate case whether they are for or against consolidation by going to this link http://eservice.azcc.gov/Utilities/PublicComment and entering the docket number WS-01303A-17-0257 or searching EPCOR Water Arizona, Inc.