The nightmare of privatized water resources continues

With help from Republicans, Aqua NC squeezes more money out of clients:

The law allows private waterworks to adjust rates several times a year through a streamlined review to pay for water and sewer upgrades. It governs all private water utilities in North Carolina, potentially affecting more than 170,000 customers statewide.

Aqua, which provides water and sewer service to more than 400 subdivisions in Wake County, already charges about twice as much as Raleigh, Durham, Cary and other municipal water agencies. The company is in the process of seeking a 19 percent rate hike, its third increase in North Carolina in the past five years.

Which should be used as a case study against the Republican "private sector more efficient than public sector" meme. It also demonstrates the GOP is not remotely interested in serving the public, and since they're riddled with conflicts of interest, we can't expect the NCUC to help:

The case before the Utilities Commission also involves Utilities Inc., a private water utility with customers in North Carolina through Carolina Trace in Lee County; CWS Systems in Wake, Durham, Franklin and Nash counties; Bradfield Farms in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties, and other subsidiaries throughout the state.

The participation of Utilities Inc. has sidelined Public Staff Director Christopher Ayers, who has recused himself from the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Before joining the state’s public protection agency in July, Ayers was in private law practice in Raleigh and represented Utilities Inc.

The utility company’s previous attorney was Edward Finley Jr., now the chairman of the Utilities Commission. Finley and Ayers practiced law together and Ayers inherited Finley’s water utility client portfolio when Finley joined the Utilities Commission in 2007.

The current lawyer for Utilities Inc., as well as for Aqua, is Jo Anne Sanford, who chaired the Utilities Commission until 2006.

Good Lord. The revolving door is spinning so fast they probably have to take a Dramamine pill every day before going to work.

Comments

This is the GOP vision

of privatization. They don't really care about the conflicts of interest or inefficiencies that you point out, because it's all about lining the pockets of a select few -- who happen to be the ones who give back a portion of that money to ensure that the GOP lawmakers remain in office.

But this is indeed an exemplar for the results of the privatization that the GOP pursues on ALEC's behalf. Up next: sewer service, education, waste disposal, human services (and they're already on their way, and the list doesn't end until all government functions are privatized).

Here's a thorough look at water privatization courtesy of Indyweek. The myths they debunk are particularly instructive. And here's the rub:

Public opinion in the U. S. does not favor privatization, with 31-45% more people against
the general concept of privatization than approving. However, the public is facing a battle for the allegiance and accountability of public officials as powerful water companies lobby and make campaign contributions to key public figures, or form relationships with developers before construction begins.

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"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Revolving door

Mornin' Ralph.

Mornin' Sam.

Say, Ralph, I can't remember, am I regulating you today?

No, Sam, I think it's my turn to regulate you. You be sure to play by the rules, today, you hear? [wink, wink]

Well, Ralph, I was kind of hoping to gouge my customers today and maybe save a little bit of money by cutting a few corners on sanitation.

Oh, Sam, I'm a-lookin' the other way. Can't see anything you're doin'. I'll just assume everything is on the up-and-up. After all, you'll be a-regulatin' me tomorrow, and I don't want to get anyone upset.

Thanks, Ralph! Ain't no sense in worryin' anyways, 'cause we got plenty of money to give to Phil and Thom to relax those stringent ol' regulations!

That's the ticket, Sam. Won't be long when we won't have to worry about any o' this regulatin' at all! What say we knock off early, get some steaks and wine and laugh at the little people?

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"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Stifling public concerns

Aside from some serious 1st Amendment questions, the "streamlining" of Aqua NC's (and others') rate increases by doing away with public input allows these companies to avoid many questions about billing and profits, which very often only get mentioned by angry ratepayers. Or bragging investment people:

2012 was our strongest financial year ever giving us a new base for future results and
marking the 20th record year for earnings out of the last 21. Net income was up 37 percent for the
year, revenues were up 10 percent to $758 million from $687 million the prior year, and we improved
the O&M to revenue ratio by 150 basis points.

Aqua America’s Board of Directors increased the quarterly cash dividend to $0.175 from $0.165 per
share effective for the December 1, 2012 quarterly dividend. This represents a 6 percent increase to
the quarterly dividend. This is the company’s 22nd dividend increase in 21 years.

A company that can pay such healthy dividends to stockholders has no right to continue jacking up their rates, and those elected and appointed officials who are responsible for looking out for us have no business even hearing such demands, much less acquiescing.

Which is *precisely* why

A necessity such as water should never be a for-profit venture.

Nauseating.

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"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Follow the money

Aqua America has contributed more than half a million dollars to candidates and parties since 2004. 80% of candidate recipients were Republicans, all party donations went to GOP. Employees of Aqua American have contributed an addition $100K+.

Most went to Pennsylvania. NC recipients include DAG McCrony ($5K), Margaret Dickson ($1K; D-Cumberland; lost to Wesley Meredith thanks to gerrymandering), Clark Jenkins ($1K; D-a whole bunch of counties in a gerrymandered district), Bob Rucho ($1K; R-Mecklenburg), Michael Walters ($1K; D-Columbus & Robeson), Eric Mansfield ($500; D-Cumberland;served 1 term, ran for & lost Lt. Gov. nomination), Richard Stevens ($500; R-Wake, resigned after 5 terms), Harold Brubaker ($250; R-Randolph, resigned to get in the revolving door).

Aqua America also has a hired lobbyist.

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"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014