Commissioners to vote on wastewater case

Elizabeth Medora~ 11/26/2014

ANTHEM – The hearing in the EPCOR wastewater case concluded Nov. 21. The next step will be a Corporation Commission vote, which will likely be scheduled at a December Commission meeting.

The hearing concluded early, due to the involved parties agreeing to a proposed settlement. Administrative Law Judge Dwight Nodes spoke on Nov. 21 regarding the agreement and is expected to support it in his upcoming Recommended Order for the case. The five Commissioners of the Arizona Corporation Commission will then vote on the case.

Under the terms of the agreement, interim rate changes would be provided until next autumn, when EPCOR will be bringing forward a full wastewater rate case. If approved, the Agua Fria district will be a flat rate of $71.16, a $35.05 reduction from current rates, and the Mohave district will be a flat rate of $55.55, a reduction of $1. Sun City will increase $4 to a flat rate of $22.11, and Sun City West will increase $1.50 to a flat rate of $32.46.

Anthem is included in the agreement and will not have a flat rate. Instead, Anthem customers’ bills will be a minimum $31.18, with a capped maximum of $60.33. This represents a volumetric rate of $4.1649, a reduction of $2.10 from current rates.

The Residential Utility Consumer Office brought forward the proposed settlement agreement.

RUCO representative Pat Quinn testified in the hearing, noting that the “case has a lot of moving parts” and that the case represented many “diverse opinions.”

Quinn described the settlement process, noting that RUCO felt that a settlement was a possibility worth pursuing in this case.

“We were very pleased at how all of the parties came together eventually,” Quinn said, adding that RUCO was happy to see how involved parties “were able to work towards a common ground.”

Issue intervenors from multiple involved communities testified to their acceptance of this proposed settlement agreement, noting that it would provide time for a full rate case and further study.

The Anthem Community Council is backing the agreement on behalf of the Anthem community.

Jenna Kollings, Community Executive Officer for the Anthem Community Council, testified that Anthem “strongly supports this proposed settlement agreement.”

“Anthem supports the settlement agreement as a positive and concrete step towards consideration of consolidation in order to support other communities’ efforts to obtain reasonable wastewater rates for residential customers,” Kollings said at the Nov. 21 hearing.

Kollings added that the settlement “meets our objective of avoiding reconsolidation,” while providing “much-needed rate relief to our Agua Fria partners.”

Kollings reiterated the Council’s support for system-wide consolidation and indicated their support for EPCOR’s filing of a full wastewater rate case. She also spoke regarding commercial customers, stating that the Council had unsuccessfully campaigned for more favorable rates for commercial customers but would continue to intervene regarding commercial customers in future cases. Kollings concluded by thanking the involved parties for their work in the case.

Shawn Bradford of EPCOR called the settlement a “good first step” to reaching resolution in the case.

“EPCOR is concerned about all of its customers,” Bradford testified. “We’re happy to see everyone get together and find something that worked for everybody.”

Bradford noted that the company still supports full consolidation, which would combine the Anthem, Agua Fria, Sun City, and Mohave districts and noted that the company will be filing “a multi-district wastewater case” in 2015.

The Commission meeting date will be announced when it becomes available. To see the full settlement agreement, go online to the Commission at www.azcc.gov, and search the eDocket for SW-01303A-09-0343.