Indianapolis to Transfer the Water/Wastewater Systems to Citizens Energy Group

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), the City of Indianapolis, Citizens Energy Group and other key customer stakeholders on April 12 announced an agreement on terms for the City?s transfer of the water and wastewater systems to Citizens. The agreement was filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), which will review the agreement as part of its decision on the proposed transfer of the systems to Citizens.

Also joining the agreement supporting the transfer of the systems were the Indianapolis Water/Sewer Industrial Group, which includes large industrial customers of the water and wastewater systems, and the Indianapolis Water Service Advisory Board, representing communities outside Marion County that are served by the water system.

Mayor Greg Ballard and Citizens in March 2010 announced the plan to transfer the systems to Citizens, a non-profit public charitable trust. The transfer is expected to result in $60 million in annual savings and combined water and wastewater rates that are 25 percent lower than current projections. The City plans to utilize $425 million in proceeds from the utility transfer to make infrastructure improvements in parks, repair bridges, streets, and sidewalks, and remove hundreds of abandoned homes.

The City-County Council of Indianapolis and Marion County approved the plan in July 2010, and the proposal is now under review by the IURC. As part of its review, the IURC held public hearings in December 2010 and February 2011. The OUCC, which represents consumer interests in cases before the IURC, recommended approval of the transfer on certain conditions in January.

Among the key provisions of the agreement are:

  • All parties agree that the IURC?s approval of the agreement will assist in facilitating achievement of the benefits of the proposed transfer at the earliest opportunity.
  • Citizens would adopt the existing rates and terms and conditions of water service that the IURC approved in its Feb. 2, 2011, rate order for the Department of Waterworks. Citizens would adopt the existing rates and charges for wastewater service, which were approved by the City-County Council through 2013.
  • Citizens will document savings generated from the utility transfer, and Citizens will make periodic reports on the status of savings to the IURC and OUCC. These reports will be available to the public.
  • Citizens will continue to seek input from technical advisory groups, environmental groups and other organizations interested in water and wastewater issues. Citizens also will maintain the Service Advisory Board and honor commitments to communities outside Marion County that are served by the water system.
  • Citizens will collaborate with the OUCC, IURC and other parties on a variety of important issues facing the water and wastewater utilities, including the elimination of septic tanks in Marion County, future rate design and water conservation planning.

?The OUCC has engaged in extensive negotiations with the City and Citizens over the past two months since recommending approval of these system transfers, subject to a number of conditions, including documentation and reporting of savings derived from the transactions as well as increased accountability in regard to the systems? operations,? said Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor David Stippler. ?This agreement resolves our concerns and we are pleased that the negotiations have led to a fair resolution for customers.?
Mayor Ballard thanked all parties to the agreement for seeking the best outcome for the community. ?This agreement strengthens our plan to ensure well managed, more affordable utilities for our community without partisan politics. We look forward to IURC approval of the utility transfer so Citizens can begin implementing synergies among the combined utilities while passing on significant annual savings to customers.?

Carey Lykins, President and CEO of Citizens, also expressed his appreciation for the work of the OUCC and other parties to the agreement. ?We appreciate the efforts of the Utility Consumer Counselor and other parties to reach this agreement, which will foster a collaborative relationship with the OUCC and other key stakeholders as we move forward. Citizens is now focused on utility integration planning that will ensure high quality drinking water and cleaner area rivers and streams for our community. We will meet these commitments while documenting $60 million in annual savings that will benefit all utility customers,? Lykins said.

Seven Bay Area Municipalities to Address SSOs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Justice Department, California Water Boards and San Francisco Baykeeper announced a stipulated order that will settle a Clean Water Act enforcement action against seven municipalities in the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). The settlement is part of a broader enforcement strategy to address sewage overflows to the San Francisco Bay, especially during rain events.

During this most recent rainy season, which began in October 2010, nearly 125 million gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage from EBMUD?s wet weather facilities overflowed into the San Francisco Bay during wet weather.

Among other things, the seven municipalities listed as defendants in the order have cooperatively agreed to update aging infrastructure and collection systems that have been major contributors to the overflows.
The settlement is the latest in a series of Clean Water Act settlements that will reduce the discharge of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater into United States? bays, rivers, streams and lakes. Other U.S. cities that have made similar improvements following a federal order include: Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and more than 40 more. The initiative will focus on reducing discharges from sewer overflows by obtaining cities? commitments to implement timely, affordable solutions to these problems, including the increased use of green infrastructure and other innovative approaches.

As part of the order, Oakland, Emeryville, Piedmont, Berkeley, Alameda, Albany, and the Stege Sanitary District (which serves Kensington, El Cerrito and the Richmond Annex section of Richmond) will make substantial improvements to their wastewater collection systems to reduce sewage spills to the Bay. These defendants are collectively referred to as ?satellite communities? in the stipulated order.

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