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Rockland Legislator Calls For Public Comment On Suez Rate Increase

Rockland Legislator Harriet Cornell, chairwoman of the county's Task Force on Water Resources Management, wants the public to comment on Suez's proposed water rate increase.
Rockland Legislator Harriet Cornell, chairwoman of the county's Task Force on Water Resources Management, wants the public to comment on Suez's proposed water rate increase. Photo Credit: Flicker

NEW CITY, N.Y. -- A Rockland County legislator, reacting to Suez’s proposed rate increase, is calling for better conservation efforts and for the company to speed up repairs of leaky water mains.

Harriet Cornell, who is chairwoman of the Rockland County Task Force on Water Resources Management, is also urging residents and business owners to comment on the rate increase.

The state Public Service Commission will hold a hearing on the proposed increase at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in the chambers of the Rockland County Legislature, 11 New Hempstead Road, New City.

An administrative law judge will oversee the gathering of the public comment and all evidence relating to a joint proposal submitted by the company and the staff of the state Department of Public Service.

All information will be presented to the Public Service Commission for consideration, Cornell said.

The board can then adopt or reject the joint proposal in whole or part, she added.

Under the joint proposal, rates would increase by 5.9 percent in the first year, 5.6 percent in the second year, and 5.3 percent in the third year.

According to Cornell, Suez has built into the proposed increase the recovery of $54 million spent “as it pursued its doomed desalination and treatment plant in Haverstraw.”

Those losses account for about 65 percent of the proposed rate increase, Cornell said.

“It was very disappointing to see the final Joint Proposal and find it lacking many of the features that would elevate the plan and ensure its successful administration,” the legislator said.

Cornell also said that many of the task force’s suggestion were “ignored” and the plan itself “was not of the caliber” the county had expected.

Cornell urged the Public Service Commission to review the task force’s recommendations, especially with regards to conservation, which, she said, “is the most cost-effective way to provide drinking water.”

Among the improvements that are needed, Cornell said, are the replacement of water mains at an accelerated rate, and independent water loss audits that are available for review by the PSC.

According to Cornell, the system may be leaking as much as 4 million gallons of water a day.

Cornell said far-reaching conservation efforts should also be implemented as part of the plan.

The legislator said Suez’s plan to set a conservation rate of 1 million gallons of water a day “incredibly low."

She also said the plan lacks sufficient data to back up Suez’s assertion that “that’s the best it can do.”

Task force and county consultants “have indicated that conservation can deliver a great deal more,” Cornell said.

Suez's director of external affairs, Bill Madden, issued the following statement Tuesday.

“This is a fair and equitable solution for our customers. This proposal includes rate stability for three years, significant investment in infrastructure, a robust conservation program and a resolution to the Haverstraw Water Supply Project.”

According to Madden, highlights of the Joint Proposal include:

  • Average rate increase is about $3 per month (or 5.6%) for three years.
  • Many senior citizens will see a decrease in their monthly bills due to a new rate structure that rewards households that use lower amounts of water.
  • An extensive conservation program that includes rebates for household appliances.
  • Significant investment in infrastructure.

Those who can’t physically attend the hearing have the following options for submitting comments:

  • By web: Go to the website ( www.dps.ny.gov ), click on "Search," enter the case number (16-W-0130), then click "Post Comments" at the top of the page.
  • By mail : Email comments to the secretary to the commission at secretary@dps.ny.gov or mail to Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary, Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, N.Y., 12223-1350.
  • Toll-free Opinion Line : Call the commission's Opinion Line at 1-800-335-2120. This number is set up to take comments from in-state callers, 24-hours-a-day. The comments are not transcribed verbatim, but a summary is provided to the commission.
All comments should reference Case 16-W-0130-SuezWaterNY-Water Rates.

All written comments will become part of the record and will be reported to the Public Service Commission for its consideration.

They may be accessed on the PSC’s website.

Comments submitted by alternative means have to be received by Dec. 9.

For a related article concerning the rate increase, click here.

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