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No rate hikes for Aqua without public hearings, AG Cooper says

Release date: 7/2/2014

Cooper appeals provision to let water system raise future rates without hearings 

Raleigh: Utility company Aqua should not get to raise customers’ rates without holding public hearings, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday as he filed to appeal a provision adopted earlier this year by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

“Consumers deserve quality water at a fair price and they deserve a chance to weigh in when a utility wants a rate hike,” Cooper said.  “The Utilities Commission should have all information before making a decision to raise rates.”

The Attorney General’s appeal contends that the Utilities Commission did not make appropriate findings or conclusions in granting Aqua the power to raise future rates automatically without first seeking meaningful input from consumers through public hearings.

The accelerated approval process granted for future Aqua rate hikes also means that the Attorney General and other parties would not get a chance to conduct discovery and cross examine the utility’s witnesses.
Aqua is the state’s largest private water utility, providing water and/or sewer services to 250,000 customers in 52 North Carolina counties.

Under North Carolina law, regulated utilities such as Aqua typically have to seek Utilities Commission approval before increasing the rates customers pay.  That process includes public hearings where consumers, businesses and others who would be impacted by a rate hike can share their concerns with Commissioners.  The Utilities Commission’s Public Staff and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division can also participate in the process to make sure consumers’ views are taken into consideration.

Cooper’s office today filed notice of appeal in the matter and will file its full appeal with the NC Supreme Court in the coming months.

Media contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413