Legislators call for increased scrutiny of proposed water and sewer rate hikes

Reps Petersen and Gruenberg ask for public hearings and no early implementation

ANCHORAGE – Today, Representatives Pete Petersen and Max Gruenberg (both D-Anchorage) called on the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) to extend the public comment period and hold public hearings on the Anchorage Waste Water Utility's (AWWU) proposed water and sewer rate increases. Doing so would help the Commission more closely examine the proposed increases to make sure any rate changes are fair to consumers.

"Right now, many people in my district are barely making ends meet, and it could be hard to find another $30 each month to keep the water on," said Rep. Gruenberg. "The RCA should hold public hearings to get a better understanding of the impacts these rate increases would have on consumers and make sure they're fair before it makes its decision."

"If approved, rate increases of this magnitude have potential to severely affect senior citizens, students, working families, and other fixed income households," said the Representatives in a letter to the RCA.

In addition to public hearings, Representatives Petersen and Gruenberg requested that the Commission invite the Attorney General to participate in the proceedings to represent the interests of Alaskan residents. They also requested RCA not allow AWWU to increase rates until the Commission has ruled on the validity and necessity of any increase. Often utilities are allowed to charge increased rates on an "interim and refundable" basis before the RCA rules on whether the increase is warranted. In their letter, the legislators say "the risk to consumers is too high" to charge them higher rates in this unstable economic climate before knowing if the increases are justified, even if any increase deemed unwarranted would be refundable later.

"Alaskans cannot afford to loan utilities extra cash, especially right before the Holidays," said Rep. Petersen. "RCA needs to do a thorough study of whether these increases are justified at this time, and it should not let them charge increased rates until the review is complete."

The proposed increases are 8 percent for water service and 15 percent for sewer service. The public comment period is set to end December 16. The representatives request RCA extend that period long enough to schedule, promote and hold a public hearing.

Residents may submit written comments either online through www.Rca.Alaska.gov or by mail to 701 West Eighth Avenue, Suite 300; Anchorage, AK 99501.  A copy of the comments must also be sent to AWWU at info@awwu.biz or PO Box 196626, Anchorage, AK 99519-6626. Comments should mention that they have been sent to AWWU and reference case numbers TA 133-122 and TA 131-126.

If you have trouble with the link above to the letter, paste this URL into your browser: http://www.akhouse.org/Press/120910_awwu_letter.pdf


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