Councilman Seth Yurdin will introduce a resolution opposing House Bill 8123 and Senate Bill 2838 at the June 21, 2018, City Council meeting. These companion bills would “authorize any municipal water supply system and any regional water quality management district commission to enter into an agreement called a ‘transaction’ enabling certain water supply systems to merge and be deemed a public utility.”
“If this proposal is approved, it will allow for the “monetization” of the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) at the expense of the residents by permitting the City to transfer control of the PWSB to an improperly regulated third-party operator,” stated Councilman Seth Yurdin. “This water-sale-scheme does not safeguard residents from unfair rate increases, fails to protect our environment, and does not ensure that city residents have safe, high-quality drinking water.”
Yurdin is not the only person to oppose these bills. Several environmental advocates, government watchdog groups, and public policy experts, including the Conservation Law Foundation, the Burrillville Land Trust, The Rhode Island Association of Conservation Commissions, and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council each have expressed deep opposition.
Under H8123 and S2838, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) would have no power to review transactions and would be prohibited from affecting rate increases “in any way” for five years. Removing the PUC’s authority to review transactions and reject rate increases leaves the residents and ratepayers exposed to potentially significant and unaffordable rate increases. These bills also contain no environmental protections for the Scituate Reservoir watershed, nor do they have any provisions for ensuring the water quality of the reservoir.
In reports from The New York Times and Heavy.com and from environmental groups like Food & Water Watch, we have seen over and over that privately owned water utility services cost the public significantly more than publicly owned and operated water utilities.