Patricia Lovelace, whose company administers Pennsylvania American Water Co.’s low-income program, testifies before a judge and the company’s lawyer, Anthony DeCusatis, right, during a public hearing Monday.S. John Wilkin/The Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE – Two years after it received a rate increase, Pennsylvania American Water Co. is looking for another one, and, as could be expected, several customers came to a hearing before the state Public Utility Commission on Monday evening to lodge their protest.
But one noted her support – with caveats. “I hope you get your rate increase,” said Duryea resident Jackie Stefanowicz. She then added that she hopes the company learns how to conserve its resources.
Stefanowicz had already recounted her family’s story that began in 2005 when a water main burst and, due to what she said was negligence for which the company has accepted responsibility, flooded her house.
She explained how she and her daughter are able to shower using a gallon and a half of bottled water because they haven’t been able to get their house fixed. The damage was so bad, the basement had to be gutted and the furnace scrapped. It hasn’t been replaced, she said, which means her family can’t live in the home in the winter. The PUC has failed to process some legal paperwork to allow her to seek emergency funding, she said.
In fact, Stefanowicz directed the majority of her anger at the PUC representatives at the hearing. Repeating her case’s number, she urged them to go back to their offices today, look at her file and push through her rightful judgment. “I think you need to do your jobs because it might not just be” the company that is wasting its resources, she said.
Though Pennsylvania American had only a lawyer representing it on the record, Stefanowicz posed several technical questions, including whether the company attempts to cut its expenditures by bulk purchasing and recycling pipes. “There’s a lot of ways we can try to save money,” she said.
The lawyer, Anthony DeCusatis, noted that the “principle driver” of the requested increase is property for the company’s infrastructure, including treatment, storage and distribution systems.
State Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston, was the first person to testify. She said this would be the fifth rate increase the company received in the past decade, and had received more than $100 million in rate increases over that period.
Beyond that, she pointed out, the company can petition to increase a “distribution system improvement charge,” so she called the current increase request “double dipping.”
“When is enough enough? … This comes at a particularly difficult time for the people I represent,” she said. “Frankly, I’m shocked (they) would even ask for such an increase in a” recession.
Wilkes-Barre’s Peter Gagliardi echoed her comments, calling such a rate increase “inappropriate.” Many people, he said, “have little money, if any.”
Patricia Lovelace, who came to represent Pittsburgh-based Conservation Consultants, said her company administered the company’s low-income program. She wanted to confer her clients’ appreciation for the reduced-cost programs and conservation programs for which the company pays.