Pictured is a chart of the proposed EPCOR wastewater rates based on the approved revenue requirement/rates that are in place today.
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Corporation Commission holding wastewater rates hearing, Nov. 12

Elizabeth Medora~ 11/5/2014

ANTHEM – The Arizona Corporation Commission will begin a hearing on Nov. 12 to consider the testimony that has been submitted in the EPCOR wastewater case. This will be followed by public comment meetings in Sun City and Buckeye on Nov. 25.

The case began due to residents from the Agua Fria district protesting wastewater costs and petitioning the Corporation Commission to lower the rates. Agua Fria’s rates went up after Anthem residents, formerly a faction of the Agua Fria district, successfully petitioned to have their own wastewater district.

The Commission instructed EPCOR Water to examine three possibilities for lowering rates:

  • Reconsolidation – once again combining Agua Fria and Anthem districts
  • Full deconsolidation – Further separating the Agua Fria district, creating Russell Ranch, Verrado, and Northeast Agua Fria service areas
  • Full consolidation – combining all five wastewater districts into one

 

On Nov. 12, the Administrative Law Judge of the Corporation Commission will begin a hearing in the downtown Commission building and examine submitted testimony in the case. This hearing will be open to the public, and comments will be accepted. Once the hearing is completed, the Administrative Law Judge will offer a recommended opinion. After that, the Commissioners will discuss the judge’s recommendation at an open meeting.

EPCOR has requested that the Commission allow them to fully consolidate the wastewater districts, citing this as the most equitable and sustainable solution.

In testimony to the Corporation Commission, EPCOR Vice President of Corporate Services Shawn Bradford noted that the full consolidation model “mirrors what consumers experience in most municipal districts.”

“In the long term, all wastewater customers will benefit from predictable, uniform rate structures, reduced regulatory expenses and increased efficiencies,” Bradford testified.

When asked by the Commission what the benefits of full consolidation were, Bradford listed ten potential advantages:

1. Consolidation would offer and could be a long-term solution to eliminate disparity in rates;
2. Improves service affordability for customers;
3. Helps control cost of customer accounting and billing systems;
4. Provides ratemaking treatment similar to that for other utilities;
5. Improved rate stability and elimination of rate shock;
6. Reduction in the number of rate cases and associated expenses;
7. Elimination of cost allocation issues between districts in rate filings;
8. Standardized service rates and charges across all districts;
9. Reduced customer confusion with respect to differing rate schedules among districts, which improves customer service efforts;
10. Lowers administrative costs for the Commission.

Anthem residents and the Anthem Community Council have vigorously opposed reconsolidation of the Anthem and Agua Fria wastewater districts.

On Online at Anthem, the Council links to a petition urging residents to sign to oppose reconsolidation of the Agua Fria and Anthem districts. The petition notes that the two districts were originally separated because it was deemed that it “did not result in wastewater rates for Anthem customers that were just and reasonable as required by Arizona law.”

“No Agua Fria petitioner has proposed reconsolidation of the Anthem/Agua Fria Wastewater District,” the petition notes. “Reconsolidation of the Anthem/Agua Fria Wastewater District is clearly not the right solution for Anthem or Agua Fria.”

Some signers of the petition have added comments to their signatures, detailing why they signed. Several commented on the current cost of water service and emphasized that they don’t want to see rates rise, as they will with reconsolidation.

“It is hurting our resale prices of our home and hurting our community,” noted one signer. Another signer called raising wastewater rates “grossly unfair.” A recent signer stated, “Enough is enough.”

The Anthem Community Council is now supporting full consolidation as a possible solution to wastewater woes.

“Of the solutions for reducing Agua Fria bills that have been identified by the Commission so far, Anthem prefers consolidation of all EPCOR wastewater districts in Arizona because over the long haul it benefits and burdens all customers more equally,” Jenna Kollings, Community Executive Officer of the Anthem Community Council, testified to the Commission.

“However, Anthem recognizes that Sun City and Sun City West probably oppose full consolidation,” Kollings continued. “Therefore, employing the same constructive and cooperative approach that Anthem has maintained throughout these proceedings, the Community Council has retained Dan Neidlinger to provide a two-step implementation plan that requires only modest and gradual increases to bills in Sun City and Sun City West as an initial step towards ultimate full consolidation. In the event that the Commission decides to order full consolidation and gradualism is desired, Anthem recommends adoption of the Neidlinger plan, as discussed in Mr. Neidlinger’s October 6, 2014 prepared direct testimony.”

Kollings added that the Council would be open to considering other solutions besides full consolidation if they “provide a fair compromise.”

“Anthem vigorously opposes any solution that requires our residents to disproportionately bear the burden of a fix for Agua Fria or any other EPCOR wastewater customers,” Kollings said.

Residents are welcome to offer public comments at the Corporation Commission meetings on Nov. 25. According to a notice issued by the Commission, the Commissioners will not be able to answer questions put to them by the public, as it is a pending legal matter. Comments given at the Nov. 25 meeting will be entered into public record and become part of the legal case. The meetings will be held on Nov. 25, 1 p.m. at Sundial Center Auditorium, 14801 N. 103rd Ave., in Sun City and Nov. 25, 6 p.m., Palo Verde Energy Education Center, 600 N. Verrado Way, in Buckeye.

See EPCOR’s testimony to the Commission at www.epcor.com/water/Pages/az-wastewater-rate-design.aspx.

See archived articles regarding this rate case at www.TheFoothillsFocus.com.