Ashton Marra Published

Public Utilities Say Too Much Regulation From State


A study paid for by local public water systems says the state public service commission over-regulates the utilities and is preventing them from providing better service to their customers.

The study was paid for by the West Virginia Rural Water Association, Municipal Water Quality Association, the West Virginia section of American Water Works Association and the West Virginia Water Environment Association.

Some of those groups also lobbied the legislature to weaken some provisions in Senate Bill 373 which created an above ground storage tank inspection program and also provided for more regulations of public water systems following January’s chemical spill in Charleston.

Members of the associations presented the study’s findings to a joint Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday which found West Virginia regulates public service utilities more than any other state.

Bob Rodecker, a Charleston attorney commissioned to conduct the 50 state survey, said the state regulates rates, construction, contracts, mergers and consolidations.

Comparatively, six or seven other states across the country regulate those same things, depending on which regulatory power you consider.

“The current regulatory environment is not in the best interest of our citizens,” said Tim Ball, manager of the Morgantown Utility Board, “and the centralized control of public utilities is a poor, obsolete and limiting regulatory model.”

Testimony before the committee suggested allowing more control at the local level for construction projects, rate adjustments and the ability to maintain a larger surplus in case of an emergency.

“Frankly, what you heard today is they want rate increases,” said Richard Hitt, general counsel with the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

He said if the West Virginia Public Service Commission stopped regulating rates, most public service customers across the state would see an increase in cost.

Hitt also said there have only been four emergency requests for funding in the past three years, but if the utilities were allowed to keep larger surpluses than what they do currently, there would have to be some regulation of what classified as a true emergency.