Sand Jose Water submits regulatory application to acquire CT Water Company
CT's WATER FOR SALE: San Jose Water (SJW) of California is currently seeking regulatory approval to acquire CT Water Co., one of CT's largest private water utilities. Last year, Aquarion Water Co. was bought by Eversource. Who will have the right to store and distribute (i.e. control) large volumes of CT's water? Many, many questions are being raised. Is this in the public's best interest? What will be done with any lands SJW wishes to sell off? Will it support the proposed State Water Plan? Does it regard water as a public trust resource? Are there potential conflicts of interest, given SJW is an out-of-state for-profit company which also has interests in real estate development? Will it be a good steward of our water sources and water infrastructure? Hopefully CT is not to become the land of "water opportunity" with a reasonably plentiful supply and "a favorable regulatory climate".
PLEASE SEE RIVERS ALLIANCE WEBSITE http://www.riversalliance.org/Top…/Water_Infrastructure.php… for an in-depth discussion. Details on submitting a comment or question to the Public Utilities Regulatory Agency, are also provided there: Docket # 18-07-10.
Save Our Water CT has submitted the following comments and questions to the Public Utility Regulatory Agency for its consideration in this deliberation:
September 2, 2018
Re: Docket 18-07-10 [Application of SJW Group and Connecticut Water Service, Inc. for Approval of Change of Control].
We are writing on behalf of Save Our Water CT to share our concerns regarding the acquisition of Connecticut Water Service, Inc. by SJW Group.
Save Our Water CT is a citizen-activist group that formed in early 2016 in response to Niagara Bottling’s negotiations with the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) and the Town of Bloomfield to bring a large water bottling plant to Bloomfield. In 2012 the MDC proposed an 18 mile out-of-basin transfer of water to UConn. During the last two and a half years we have witnessed a serious, prolonged state drought; a reluctance and outright refusal by water utilities to publicly release non-security-sensitive water supply plan details; industrial rate discounting of water that rewards increased usage as opposed to conservation; and the opposition of the business and water utility lobby to the already-established statute referencing water as a public trust resource (CT G.S. 22a-15). Consequently, we have been following news of the proposed “change of control” of Connecticut Water Service with interest. Quoting briefly from page 3 of the joint application:
“The Authority has also found that it has a statutory responsibility, inherent under Title 16 of the General Statutes, to ensure that the change of control is in the public interest…… The change of control is in the public interest as it is expected to provide benefits to customers by providing opportunities to increase the reliability and adequacy of water service, to increase access to capital, and to improve customer service. Moreover, in the long run the Transaction will provide opportunities to reduce costs through economies of scale and operating efficiencies which will benefit customers by exerting downward pressure on rates.”
Our expectation and hope is that PURA will take a sufficiently broad view of what constitutes “the public interest” in considering this application. We think that Connecticut state agencies have an obligation to consider long-term impacts on all Connecticut citizens and on the environment in proposed “changes in control” of public trust resources – not just the proposed new company’s customers.
Apart from the question of whether the proposed acquisition would actually deliver to customers those purported benefits it is “expected” to provide, the acquisition would impact more than the company’s customers. For example:
We hope that PURA will take time to thoroughly and thoughtfully review this application. Connecticut water is a public trust resource and citizens are relying on you to safeguard that resource.
Thank you for your consideration.
Despite- or due to-legislative inaction, Governor Malloy today (June 14th) issued an Executive Order for state agencies to begin implementing the State Water Plan as originally drafted. The order also directed the Water Planning Council to re-submit the plan- in its original draft form- to the legislature by Dec 1st.
His order left intact the "water is a public trust" language that was so opposed by a coalition of water utilities, golf associations, and the CT Business and Industry Association.
As the water plan is largely a platform for informed decision-making, much of its work can proceed while awaiting a second round at the legislature. The Water Planning Council will meet on June 15th with "Implementation" leading its agenda.
See the Executive Order at: portal.ct.gov/-/media/D5B15C2FB2134AFAB6E70F56F516B7E7.pdf
It was a disappointing end to the 2018 General Session, with the failure of the first State Water Plan to be adopted. But the overwhelming public support for the inclusion of "water as a public trust resource" in the plan - and the vehement opposition by industry groups- brought the importance of our environmental protection laws to the forefront. Our 1971 CT General Statute 22a-15 declares as state policy that our air, water, and natural resources are held in the public trust. The plan is intact, still contains its important public trust language, and will return to the General Assembly next year, hopefully to more receptive legislators.
Save Our Water CT is taking a necessary break to re-assess, re-group, and re-strategize for the coming year. As we write, decisions are being made over allowing Tilcon Connecticut to strip mine Class I and II watershed lands, to allow California corporations to buy out CT water utilities, and to potentially re-instate water rate discounts for industrial water bottlers like Niagara Bottling of California.
We hope all those who care deeply for this precious resource make it an issue in the upcoming 2018 elections!
The 2018 legislative session ended at midnight on May 9th with no vote taken on the State Water Plan. After a public hearing on April 17th by the 4 committees of cognizance at at the General Assembly (Environment, Public Health, Planning & Development, and Energy & Technology) further advancement was blocked by a combination of special interest groups. Although a coalition of environmental advocates reached compromise language with the CT Water Works Association (CWWA) and the MDC, the CT Business and Industry Association (CBIA), and Sen. Len Fasano remained firmly opposed. The mere mention that "water as a public trust" was a frequently made public comment during the draft review, along with the citation of CGS 22a-15 in the draft document, was the reported cause. After years of work, the input of countless experts, and over a million dollars of state funds, our first state water plan will sadly need to await next year's legislative session.
With an ongoing bidding war by California corporations for a major CT private water utility, a pending decision on a proposal to grant Tilcon CT access to Class I watershed land for strip mining, and the possible re-introduction of large volume water discounts to Niagara Bottling of CA by the MDC, it's ever more important to make water policy an issue in this fall's elections.
Our first State Water Plan: developed after years of work, with input by multiple expert stakeholders and with unanimous approval by 4 state agencies (DEEP, DPH, OPM, PURA). It now awaits approval at the General Assembly. A fierce last minute lobbying campaign by the water utilities and business interests (among them MDC, CWWA, and CBIA) is attempting to strip out public input and delete recognition of water as a public trust resource. Will big $$ and scare tactics win again at the legislature? Or will our elected representatives respect citizen's concerns for our vital water resources? See the advocates' statement below.
Tuesday April 17th 11AM- 4PM Legislative Office Building Rm 2C
It's here: the key Public Hearing for CT's first State Water Plan. Four committees of cognizance (Public Health, Environment, Planning & Development and Energy & Technology) will decide whether the plan is forwarded to the General Assembly for adoption. It should be a "no-brainer":
As federal regulations protecting our environment are eviscerated, it's ever more important that we let our officials know: water belongs to us all and is our most important resource.
HELP ASK the COMMITTEES to PASS the STATE WATER PLAN AS DRAFTED!
Judy Allen for the Save Our Water CT Steering Committee
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CT Water Industry Uses Poorly Drafted Bill to Oppose Public Trust Language in State Water Plan
A recent Senate Bill SB-427, introduced by a water utility association president from southeastern CT and Sen. Formica, argued that all well water in the state- no matter how large or small- be exempted from the protections of public trust. Oral testimony, given by the CWWA lobbyist, registered their opposition to the specifics of the bill, but used it as an opportunity to urge that public trust language be struck from our State Water Plan. Save Our Water CT regards it as the opening salvo in a battle over protection of our public waters. See the bill at www.cga.ct.gov/2018/TOB/s/2018SB-00427-R00-SB.htm and read
all the testimony at www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CommDocTmyBill.asp?comm_code=env&bill=SB-00427&doc_year=2018
TESTIMONY IN OPPOSITION TO RAISED SB 427:
Save Our Water CT
Citizen advocates acting to protect and conserve Connecticut's public trust waters.