Cornell requests state to deny United Water desal pre-construction charges

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

County Legislator Harriet Cornell has once again sounded alarms on United Water New York’s proposed desalination plant in Haverstraw, specifically targeting what she says are vague and non-transparent financial projections.

Cornell issued a request to the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to deny UWNY’s planned rate hike of $56.8 million to make up losses from pre-construction work on the plant.

According to Cornell, UWNY has released almost no details on the cost of the plant. She pointed to the inclusion of only two pages’ worth of cost information in the company’s 775 page Draft Environmental Impact Statement as evidence that the public has been kept in the dark.

“UWNY has not to date provided a budget nor essentially any detail on the proposed capital costs for the desalination plant,” Cornell wrote in the letter.

Cornell also cited a report by economic consultants with ECONorthwest which blasted UWNY for failing to include information on the price of some basic expenses which could be used to generate an overall estimate. UWNY stated in its DEIS report that the project could cost anywhere from $139 to $198 million.

“It is incredible that the standard cost categories for a capital project are not shown: architecture and engineering costs, land acquisition, approvals, geotechnical testing, legal fees, interest, construction, overhead and profit, and contingency,” Cornell wrote.

United Water is no stranger to controversey with the proposed plant, which has been criticized for possible environmental damage, the potential production of questionable drinking water and the shouldering of costs on ratepayers. UWNY has also faced condemnation for proposing a rate hike before the plant had even received approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation or the PSC.

Cornell is one among many legislators who have come out in opposition to the plant. In the summer of 2013, the legislature as a whole voted for the county to join the Municipal Consortium, an organization of towns, villages and nonprofits opposed to the project.

United Water responded to Cornell’s claims by reiterating that it was pursuing all necessary governmental reviews. According to United Water Director of Communications Deb Rizzi, the company’s cost studies were comprehensive enough to warrant PSC approval.

“The proposed surcharge is to recover United Water’s investment related to developing a new long term water supply,” Rizzi stated. “These pre-construction development costs are well documented and include the selection process, preliminary design, engineering, permitting, pilot plant testing and the extensive legal approval process.”

Comments

  1. BIG NEWS: Judge Casutto just ordered the opening of a PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD in Case 13-W-0246, “Proceeding on Verified Petition of United Water New York Inc. for Implementation of a Long-Term Water Supply Surcharge, And Related Tariff Amendment”, Honorable Kevin Jaye Casutto, Administrative Law Judge, presiding (the “Surcharge Case”). We now need every able Rockland County resident to please visit the PSC website at:
    dps.ny.gov
    put the above-cited case number in the website’s “Search” box, and then post a written public comment opposing the US$56.8 million Surcharge. Thank you, Legislator Cornell, for making this newspaper article happen, and for your continued opposition to United Water’s US$56.8 million Surcharge.

    A copy of the Notice Inviting Comments, issued to us yesterday by Judge Casutto and the PSC, follows below. Rockland County community response, en masse, is critical:

    STATE OF NEW YORK
    PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
    CASE 13-W-0246 – Verified Petition of United Water New York Inc. for Implementation of a Long-Term Water Supply Surcharge, And Related Tariff Amendment.

    NOTICE INVITING COMMENTS

    (Issued February 25, 2014)

    TAKE NOTICE that comments are invited regarding the petition of United Water New York Inc. (UWNY or the Company) for implementation of a long-term water supply surcharge to recover costs associated with the Haverstraw Water Supply Project, a long-term major water supply project.

    Any interested person wishing to comment may submit comments electronically to the Secretary by e-filing through the Department’s Document and Matter Management (DMM) System or by e-mail sent to:
    secretary@dps.ny.gov.

    [1 To Register with DMM to file comments and for filing registration instructions see
    http://www.dps.ny.gov/DMM_Registration.html
    and
    http://www.dps.ny.gov/e-file/registration.html
    Many public libraries offer free Internet access].

    Parties unable to file electronically may mail or deliver their comments to Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary of the New York State Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12223-1350. A copy of the Company’s verified petition may be accessed on the Department’s Web site at:
    http://www.dps.ny.gov
    and by searching Case 13-W-0246.

    Comments may also be submitted through the Commission’s Opinion Line at 1-800-335-2120. This number is designed to take comments about pending cases from in-state callers, 24 hours a day. Callers should press “1″ to leave comments. These calls are not transcribed but a summary is provided to the administrative law judge who will report to the Commission.

    Comments will become part of the record considered by the Commission. Comments are requested by Wednesday, April 23, 2014, but will be accepted throughout the pendency of this proceeding. Written comments may be accessed on the Web site by searching Case 13-W-0246.

    The matters described above are being considered in Case 13-W-0246 – Verified Petition of United Water New York Inc. for Implementation of a Long-Term Water Supply Surcharge, And Related Tariff Amendment.

    KATHLEEN H. BURGESS
    Secretary
    – – – – –
    A thank you to Attorney Hayley Carlock, Esq. of Scenic Hudson, who made the request Thursday for the Public Comment Period to Judge Casutto; followed by a thank you to Judge Casutto and the PSC for granting it; followed by a thank you to Legislator Harriet Cornell for her continued leadership on opposition to the Surcharge.