Water company records go public with passage of popular bill

Legislation passed with bipartisan support by the California State Senate and signed into law last week will now require water companies and agencies to be subject to the same review and audit process as other public utilities.

Senate Bill 1364, introduced by California Senator Bob Huff— representing the 29th district, including Claremont—aims to give ratepayers more involvement in the water rate adjustment process.

“This bill subjects water corporations with more than 2000 service connections to the same reporting and auditing requirements currently imposed on electrical, gas and telephone corporations,” Mr. Huff wrote in a statement. “It is designed to protect ratepayers.”

According to the bill’s language, SB 1364 will give the public access to “inspect the accounts, books, papers and documents of any business that is a subsidiary or affiliate of, or that holds a controlling interest in, a water corporation.”

Bill 1364’s proposed transparency changes include notification of how a rate increase will affect a customer as part of the agency’s general rate case. It will also ensure that those served by private water companies are provided with proper general rate case notification information necessary to protect them from regularly rising water rates.

“We are thankful for the leadership of Senator Bob Huff and Governor Jerry Brown in championing legislation as part of our ongoing efforts to protect the residents and ratepayers in Claremont against the continued abuse by Golden State Water Company,” said Mayor Larry Schroeder.

Though SB 1364 will not limit the rate increases, it will provide state regulators with needed oversight authority, something previously lacking in regard to private water companies, according to Mr. Schroeder.

“Golden State Water is the perfect example of a large private water company being able to take advantage of ratepayers because of inadequate auditing and lack of local control,” he said.

Golden State officials maintain they are supportive of the new legislation, which they decided to endorse last May. In announcing their support of the bill, Golden State officials stated they will continue to work toward greater company accessibility with its customers and stakeholders.  

“We believe greater transparency throughout the water industry is a positive reform to help people understand what we invest to maintain our systems and the corresponding value to customers,” said Denise Kruger, GSW’s senior vice president for regulated utilities, in a news release. “This legislation gives customers more information so they can see exactly what they’re getting when they pay a water bill.”

—Beth Hartnett



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