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Aqua Ohio rate case 2016

March 22, 2017

In May 2016, Aqua Ohio filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to increase the rates it charges customers for water service. Aqua Ohio requested a revenue increase of 9.2 percent for water service. The company’s application primarily addresses the cost recovery associated with infrastructure improvements needed to maintain service reliability, fire protection, water quality and compliance with federal and state regulations. The application does not include any change in rates for wastewater services.

What is the PUCO’s role in setting water rates?

The PUCO regulates investor-owned water companies throughout the state. The PUCO is charged with monitoring service quality, setting rates and inspecting utility facilities to ensure they are in proper working order. Under Ohio law, a public utility is entitled to recover from its customers the expenses associated with operating the public utility, plus a reasonable return on its infrastructure investments.

When a public utility requests a rate adjustment from the PUCO, several steps are taken to review the company’s financial condition and to ensure the company is fulfilling its obligations to customers. The rate case application initiates a process that must, by law, be completed within 275 days. The PUCO takes great care to review the company’s financial records to ensure that the revenue increase requested by the company is reasonable and complies with Ohio law.

How does the PUCO consider public opinion?

Following the filing of the staff report, the PUCO will schedule local public hearings wherein interested parties will be able to make a statement on the issues in the case. The five PUCO commissioners consider all public comments during their review of the case.

Additionally, interested parties may file public comments at any time on the PUCO website, www.PUCO.ohio.gov, or send public comments to the attention of IAD at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, 180 E. Broad St, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

What is the company proposing?

On May 31, 2016, Aqua Ohio filed an application to increase its rates for water service by $5,604,094.

What did the PUCO staff recommend?

On Nov. 17, 2016, the PUCO staff filed a summary of its investigation and recommendations to the Commission. The Commission is not bound by the staff report, but will take it and other evidence and testimony from intervenors into account when coming to its final determination.

The staff report is available in the case docket here.

Was a settlement reached in this case?

Yes. On January 26, Aqua Ohio and PUCO staff filed a settlement agreement.

The settlement in this case:

  • Reduces the requested $5,604,094 revenue increase or an increase over current revenue of 9.21% to a stipulated increase of $4,242,381 or an increase over current revenue of 6.94 percent.
  • Maintains a rate of return of 7.47 percent.
  • Establishes processes to address special contracts, shared services allocation practices and policies, and IT projects and policies.
  • Establishes a shareholder funded pilot program to provide bill-payment assistance to low-income customers throughout its service territory, among other provisions.

The agreement serves as a recommendation to the Commission. The Commission is not bound by the stipulations, but will take it and other evidence and testimony from intervenors into account when coming to its final determination.

How did the PUCO rule?

On March 22, 2017, the Commission issued an opinion and order adopting the settlement agreement.

How will my bills be affected?

The following are bill estimates for average residential usage.

 

Auburn Lakes**

Former Ohio-American Water*

Lake Erie Division*

Lake Erie East *

Mansfield**

Masury*

Mohawk*

Tomahawk**

Seneca*

Current bill

$43.71

$45.56

$39.01

$37.80

$52.36

$37.80

$31.33

$28.83

$43.71

New bill

$45.24

$48.17

$42.39

$40.50

$54.59

 $40.50

$33.99

$33.15

$45.24

Increase

$1.53

$4.32

$3.38

$2.70

$2.23

$2.70

$2.66

$4.32

$1.53

% increase

3.5%

5.7%

8.7 %

7.14%

4.3%

7.14%

8.5%

14.98%

3.5%

*Estimates represent average residential usage, which varies by service area; see Joint Exhibit 4.0 of the settlement agreement.

**Flate rate billing applies.

Did the PUCO consider public opinion?

Customers may write to the PUCO online or via mail to 180 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH, 43215. All correspondences should include the case number 16-0907-WW-AIR.

The PUCO scheduled three local public hearings to provide customers an opportunity to express their views on Aqua Ohio’s proposed rate increase. The local public were held in January in Columbus, Marion and Ashtabula.

How can I learn more?

The company’s application and all related documents are available on the PUCO website, www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to Docketing Information System (DIS) and search case number 16-0907-WW-AIR.