NEW CITY, N.Y. — Rockland County has filed a lawsuit against Suez and two state agencies for failing to protect the public from costs associated with a desalination plant that was never built.
"Rockland residents should not be left holding the bag for an ill-advised and poorly managed project – especially one that no one wanted and one that was ultimately shown to be unnecessary," said Rockland County Executive Ed Day.
According to court records, Suez wants Rockland ratepayers to pay for $39.7 million in costs associated with the plant that was never built. The water company is asking the state Public Service Commission to approve an 18.7 percent rate hike that would raise residential water bills $100 annually.
Day said that residents would pay more than $110 million over 20 years to help Suez recoup the cost for the failed plans to build the plant. Plans for the plant were scrapped after six years of studies costing millions of dollars.
In court documents filed June 24 in State Supreme Court in Albany, the county, with Day as lead plaintiff, is asking for class action status and court intervention.
“SUEZ is proposing to recover its costs of approximately $54 million associated with its long-term water supply project over a 20-year period. The New York State Public Service Commission’s Feb. 25, 2016, order concluded that $39 million incurred pursuing the Haverstraw Water Supply Project was done so prudently. The Feb. 25, 2016, order is legally sound and the County of Rockland’s lawsuit is without merit," said Bill Madden, spokesman for Suez.
Madden added that the record is unmistakably clear that Rockland County strongly advocated for the expedited development of a long-term water supply project in the company’s 2006 and 2010 rate cases. To suggest otherwise is unfair and not supported by the facts, he said.
"SUEZ’s rate filing features a robust conservation plan, a new rate structure that will lower bills for 20 percent of our customers and $150 million in infrastructure improvements over the next five years,” Madden said.
The legal action focuses on the request Suez is making to the Public Service Commission. The lawsuit also names the New York State Department of Public Service and Suez New York.
The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Public Service violated its statutory responsibility by performing the limited or sample audit of the invoices of these expenditures or charges for consultants.
"The Public Service Commission was supposed to be the watchdog for the consumer, making sure that the water company acted responsibly," Day said. "Suez did not act responsibly. The costs they are looking to have us pay are not just and reasonable."
The suit also alleges that Suez violated its statutory responsibilities for imposing unjust or unreasonable charges on ratepayers for its water service.
"The Public Service commission, which is supposed to be the watchdog for consumers, stood by and did nothing as Suez, our water company, spent $54 million on a plant that was never built," Day said. "In short, Rockland ratepayers are being hosed."
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