Aquarion Rate Hike Increase

AARP Calling Residents to Speak Up or Sign Petition

 (that will raise the cost of water for Connecticut ratepayers by nearly 25% over three years)

AARP Connecticut is urging the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to deny the proposal by Aquarion Water Company – the public water supply company for approximately 207,000 customers representing about 685,000 people in 56 Connecticut municipalities – to implement a rate increase that will raise the cost of water for Connecticut ratepayers by nearly 25% over three years.

AARP Connecticut encourages potentially impacted residents to exercise their power by providing comments during public hearings in October. The next hearing is:

Tuesday, October 25th, at 7:00 p.m.: Virtually via Zoom. To listen or speak on the Zoom formant go to:

https://ctdeep.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEkdO6rrDMvG92NDAf7EywU3W7at1SGMZ_O

The complete testimony submitted to PURA by AARP Connecticut follows:

Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut Rate Case (Docket No. 22-07-01)

On behalf of our nearly 600,000 members in Connecticut, many of whom live in Aquarion’s service territory, AARP hereby respectfully submits comments in the above-captioned proceeding conducted by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (“Authority” or “PURA”) regarding Docket No. 22-07-01.

Aquarion’s proposed rate increase would make water, which is an essential service, unaffordable for many older adults. The proposed 3 year time frame to increase rates gives the company additional leeway to continually raise rates. Aquarion is asking for 13.9% increase now, along with proposed increases of 6% in 2024 and 3.7% in 2025. That amounts to a near 25% increase within 3 years, which we find exorbitant.

AARP requests that PURA deny Aquarion’s proposed rate increase based on the following:

The proposed 25% increase would harm customers when they are already facing soaring energy costs as well as high inflation on almost all consumer goods, harming the state’s most vulnerable households.

The impact would be felt throughout many Connecticut communities. Aquarion serves approximately 207,000 customers (representing a population of approximately 685,000), in 56 municipalities in 7 of the state’s 8 counties.

Making water unaffordable while many older adults are already struggling to pay for every day essentials is unconscionable.

Staggering the rate hike over several years does not make the 25% increase just and reasonable.

AARP supports a new additional low-income assistance program. However, simply adding a new narrowly targeted assistance program does not justify the proposed unreasonable spike in water rates. The proposed program does not undo the significant harm from Aquarion’s proposed rate increase to those with moderate and fixed incomes who do not qualify for assistance programs.

AARP supports prudent investments – such as any necessary maintenance of aging water infrastructure and treatment plans – and urges PURA to examine closely the various investments for which Aquarion now seeks cost recovery.

AARP urges PURA to ensure that the recovery of any prudent investments be distributed fairly across todays and tomorrow’s rate payers because:

Costs for investments that will last for many years to come should not unfairly burden today’s households.

Costs should not be front-loaded on today’s ratepayers – PURA should seek to achieve “intergenerational equity.”

Any rate increase that PURA grants should be conditioned upon a demonstration of Aquarion’s good customer service and easy-to-understand bill format. Households should not see rate increases simply because Aquarion has chosen to acquire 19 water systems.

AARP urges PURA to examine Aquarion’s estimate of its merger-related savings in annual operating expenses as well as its representation as to the one-time merger-related transaction costs. Households should benefit from an accurate and fair share of the net merger-related savings.

Finally, AARP questions the proposal for inverted rates. Such a rate scheme could cause bills to soar during periods of high use without the customer’s knowledge. It is also not based on costs. It also discriminates against larger households.

Aquarion Notice To Customers:

Customer Public Hearing Notice – Eastern Division

Dear Aquarion Customer,

On August 29th, 2022, Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut (“Aquarion” or the “Company”) filed an application with the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (”PURA”) for new water rates that are expected to become effective in March 2023. Aquarion is committed to providing quality drinking water and ensuring a reliable water supply to more than 207,000 customers, or 685,000 residents, across 56 Connecticut communities. This commitment requires investment in system infrastructure, including water mains, storage tanks, treatment plant upgrades, dam improvements and enhanced pump stations. In fact, since the Company’s last general rate filing in 2013, Aquarion has invested more than $740 million in water utility infrastructure improvements.

To maintain our ability to provide all our customers with the high-quality water and reliable service they expect, and to recover the costs of investments made in the Company’s water systems, the Company has proposed an overall increase of approximately $27.5 million, or 13.9% in annual revenues.

To address affordability, equity, and conservation needs, an inclining block rate structure for single-family, residential customers is proposed. This tiered approach would result in smaller increases for efficient/average use customers whereas inefficient/high use customers would see a larger increase. Additionally, we have proposed the expansion of our customer assistance program, offering a 15% bill discount for eligible, low-income customers. This assistance program is in addition to our existing voucher and payment plan programs. The overall increase also reflects the Company’s move towards rate equalization across its existing thirteen divisional rate structures. As a result, the impact to your bill will vary when compared to the overall increase.

An average family of four uses approximately 200 gallons of water a day, or 6,000 gallons per month, equivalent to 8 CCF which is the metric your usage is measured in. The tables below reflect the projected monthly bill impact for your division for an average 5/8” metered single family residential customer using 8 CCF per month, as well as the proposed rates & service charges for your division for each class. Customers served by larger meters may also receive similar increases depending on their specific usage.

The current bill includes a 10.0% Water Infrastructure and Conservation Adjustment (“WICA”) surcharge which will be reset to zero when the proposed rates go into effect.

Monthly bill for single family with a 5/8” meter using 6,000 gallons or 8 CCF:

The usage charge increase reflect usage of 5 ccf in rate block 1 and 3 ccf in rate block 2.

Please refer to the following tables for the current and proposed rates:

Minimum Service Charge (Monthly)

Usage Charge per CCF:

Private Fire Charge:

Additionally, to better match rates to costs, limit the size of future rate increases for customers and avoid the expense associated with filing successive new rate applications, the Company is seeking approval of a 3-year rate plan. Increases for the second and third years are estimates, they are not automatic and will be subject to review and approval by PURA in separate proceedings. The Company estimates the proposed rate increases for the second and third years would be approximately 6.0% and 3.7%, respectively. The Company has proposed applying these increases equally to the rates approved in this proceeding.

Interested parties may contact the Company at (800) 732-9678 for specific information with respect to the Company’s current and proposed rates.

Customers are welcome to provide comments on the application at any of the hearings, or electronically through the PURA web-filing system or by email to Pura.ExecutiveSecretary@ct.gov. Instruction on how to use the webfiling system may be found at: https://portal.ct.gov/PURA/Consumer-Services/File-a-Public-Comment/File-a-Public-Comment. Electronic comment submission is preferred, but in the event comments cannot be submitted electronically, they may be sent via mail to: PURA at Ten Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051. Please refer to Docket Number 22-07-01 in any written or electronic correspondence. If you have any questions about the public hearings, contact PURA at (800) 382-4586 (toll-free in CT) or you may check our website at www.aquarionwater.com for information on rates and the rate case process. In addition to evidentiary hearings that will be held by PURA via remote access, local and virtual public comment hearings are scheduled as follows:

• Thursday, October 6th, 2022 at 5:30 PM -https://ctdeep.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIocuurpjgtHtbCjCnSFInEZLTVlz3tdTgS
• Wednesday, October 12th, 2022 at 5:30 PM – Stratford Library, Lovell Room, 2203 Main Street, Stratford, CT 06615
• Tuesday October 25th, 2022 at 7:00PM – https://ctdeep.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEkdO6rrDMvG92NDAf7EywU3W7at1SGMZ_O

We understand that customers may have questions about the proposed rate increase. In order to address some of those questions, we would like to stress the following points:

• The standards and regulations required to provide safe and sufficient water are increasingly more rigorous and expensive. These costs include higher operating costs to treat and test the water in addition to the millions of dollars of investment in capital required to maintain the reliability of our infrastructure.
• Aquarion’s reliable water service and hydrant maintenance help fire departments across Connecticut protect lives, residences and businesses.
• Under the new rates, Aquarion will continue to be one of the best consumer values among essential services for Connecticut residents.

In summary, this request for rate relief is to ensure that we are able to continue providing high quality water with excellent, reliable service to all our customers. We have worked hard to achieve our industry-leading customer service and efficiency and will continue to do our best to serve you.

Regards,

Donald J. Morrissey
President
Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut

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