Friday, October 15, 2010

Contentious water rate hike brings out angry residents in Northern Kentucky

Planned 25 percent hike really antagonizes hearing attendees

Public Service Commission hearing rules make crowd even angrier

As reported by the Kentucky Enquirer an angry, frustrated group of Northern Kentucky citizens let the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) hear how they felt about a huge, 25 percent increase in water rates loud and clear.

Overall, the meeting wound up with the PSC looking both citizen hostile and rather inefficient all at the same time.

As this first video shows, PSC Chairman David Armstrong started the meeting by explaining that the Northern Kentucky Water District petitioned the PSC for the huge rate increase in large measure to cover new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unfunded mandates and to repair aging equipment that has been in the ground for as long as 100 years.

But, testimony from citizens didn’t even start before the commissioner got himself in trouble by outlining the commission’s awkward, citizen unfriendly rules that would be followed during the meeting.

By the time the first citizen actually got to the microphone, the air was electric with the tension of extreme aggravation. As this next video shows, that tension wasted no time in surfacing in comments from a chemical engineer and a civil engineer, both with water treatment experience. Both took liberal shots, not only at the rate hike, but also at the science undergirding the EPA’s new rules. They continued their attacks by criticizing the apparent cave in of Kentucky’s leaders who should have protected the state’s citizens by protesting the regulations in Washington.

As you can see in the second video, as it attempted to duck responsibility for the failure to protest the EPA’s rules, the PSC pointed fingers at both the Kentucky Attorney General and the Kentucky Water Commission, claiming those agencies have the responsibility to protect individual citizens and to deal with the EPA.

Even that duck didn’t work out too well for the PSC. Angry citizens wanted to know why the Kentucky Water Commission was not represented at the hearing.

The PSC’s response just poured more gas on the fire. The PSC said this was a rate hearing, not a water quality hearing, an excuse that immediately fell flat with attendees. Angry citizens immediately pointed out that water quality was a major justification for the rate increase and was highly relevant to the discussion about whether the increase was justified. Before citizens could intelligently comment on the rate hike, they needed access to that technical information.

Overall, as the Enquirer points out, citizens came away angry not only about the proposed rate hike, but they also left the meeting with a new-found healthy distain for the way the PSC conducts hearings.

Clearly, not only do responsible Kentucky agencies need to get some spine and start questioning EPA’s unfunded mandates, but the PSC better give some serious thought to the way it conducts business, as well.

Clearly, the people who attended the hearing don’t seem likely to forget these matters. They know they may soon see a 25 percent increase in their water bills if they do.


LIberty General said...

This is a great example of how taxpayers have to play the equivalent of "pin the tail on the donkey" to know who to hold accountable for increases in utility rates, which amounts to nothing more than another tax.

Eternal Pessimist said...

That is outrageous.

Richard Innes said...

It gets worse.

Check for more blogs on this subject, as we now know it isn't just Northern Kentucky that needs to worry. Statewide, it's reported that these new EPA rules could cost local water systems as much as $1 billion just for initial construction costs.

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