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Watson bill would move utility oversight to PUC

Friday, February 15, 2013 by Kimberly Reeves

New legislation, filed Thursday by Sens. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) and Kirk Watson (D-Austin) would move oversight of water and sewer utilities from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to the Public Utility Commission.  


“Over the past decade, more and more small, privately-owned public water and wastewater utility systems have been acquired by national corporations and investment funds,” Watson said in a news release. “Texans need to be able to afford basics like water and sewer service. We’ve found that they also need protection from national or multinational entities that view water as a profitable commodity, not a basic necessity for rural Texans.”  


Central Texas has suffered its share of problems from investor-owned utilities. Early last year, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality announced its own investigation into the billing practices of Monarch Utilities. Widespread questions also were raised about Aqua Texas rate boosts.


The bill, Senate Bill 567, also recommends IOU classifications based on connections. It gives the Office of Public Utility Counsel authority to intervene in water rate cases on behalf of residential and small commercial customers. The bill applies to utilities in unincorporated and rural areas. Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) is carrying the companion bill in the House.

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