Saying No To Water Rate Hikes
By Legislator Harriet Cornell (D- West Nyack)
Rockland County Legislature
Last week, the public had the opportunity to be heard by the NYS Public Service Commission at public hearings on the request submitted by Suez Water to raise water rates on Rockland residents. I joined residents and expressed my dismay about the approach Suez has taken on critical water issues.
I focused on the unfairness of asking ratepayers to bear the costs for the failed desalination plant. Suez is requesting to raise rates far more than is necessary to provide water to residents in order to recoup the millions of dollars spent unnecessarily on the desalination plant– $54.5 million spent on planning costs, which, if approved by the PSC, will amount to $110 million with interest over 20 years. Suez took a business risk—and those costs should not be put on the backs of its customers!
It’s true that in 2006 the Public Service Commission had ordered the utility to find ways to increase the water supply, but Suez put all its eggs in one basket – the desalination plant – which was ultimately rejected, thanks to a coalition of citizens opposing this unnecessary, costly capital project.
Approving this rate hike request would only send the wrong message that a company can sink huge costs into failed ventures and still make a profit regardless. The PSC needs to send a message that there is accountability.
It’s not enough to speak out against rate hikes; we must also have an alternate solution. The Rockland Water Task Force worked with Suez in the past on beneficial water conservation measures. Unfortunately, Suez decided to no longer participate with the Task Force. I have called on Suez to return and help develop a comprehensive plan of water savings that maximizes the full potential of conservation achievable when the utility, municipalities and community work in partnership. The conservation plan Suez has proposed to the PSC does not go far enough. Water conservation should be maximized because it is not only environmentally sustainable, but also more cost effective than alternatives.
Suez must ramp up its testing and repairs for water leaks, and its replacement schedule for aged, leaky water mains. That will help prevent the loss of millions of gallons of water a day.
The Water Task Force was awarded $250,000 in the state budget to pursue conservation planning, making it more important than ever for Suez to act responsibly and work with us. Charging residents ever-higher water rates is simply not a solution we can live with.