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Home Page > About the Florida Public Service Commission > Commissioners > Commissioner Brisé Newsletter Archives > July 2012 Chairman's Newsletter

Chairman Brise
FLORIDA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
Commission Update

JULY 2012

Ronald A. Brisé
Chairman, FPSC
Upgrading Florida’s Water and Wastewater Infrastructure:
No Easy Task


Because it is essential to life, water is a vital resource. The issues surrounding its allocation, use, cost, and conservation are even more pressing—and among the more complicated our state will face in the coming years. It’s a big gulp to swallow at one time, especially since consumer resistance to any rate increases have hit water and wastewater utilities hard.

Determining the cost of water is our job at the Public Service Commission (PSC), but Florida’s water-related issues involve many other agencies and local governments. The 2012 Florida Legislature called for an 18-member “Study Committee on Investor-Owned Water and Wastewater Utilities” to identify issues of concern and research possible solutions, particularly for small systems and their customers. Its members—representing a myriad of stakeholders responsible for water and wastewater systems and including customer representatives—now have an excellent opportunity to research innovative strategies that will strengthen Florida’s water industry.

Ultimately, good policy design will help with Florida’s water infrastructure and move us toward utility rate structures that reflect the true cost of providing safe and reliable drinking water to customers now and in the future.

Our nation’s drinking water infrastructure, with millions of miles of underground pipes, needs an upgrade. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Web site, “The drinking water treatment plants and distribution lines, sewer lines, and storage facilities that we rely on for clean and safe water are aging, some to the point of deterioration and even failure.” Last month, thousands of water professionals met at the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) 131st Annual Conference and Exposition, and heard one particular report that detailed why an aging infrastructure is the “most pressing concern” of United States water and wastewater systems.

So, how much will it cost to fix this problem? Every year the estimated price tag for repairing the nation’s water infrastructure rises. According to the AWWA, estimated funding needs for the remediation of the nation’s water infrastructure will total more than $1 trillion nationwide between 2011 and 2035 and exceed $1.7 trillion by 2050 (Journal AWWA: April 2012). If these remediation costs are to be covered solely by the ratepayer, affordability will be a significant issue for most customers and a challenge for regulators.

The PSC regulates privately owned water and wastewater utilities in counties where the Board of County Commissioners has officially transferred jurisdiction to the Commission. A county government in Florida has the option to regulate investor-owned water and wastewater utilities, or choose to approve a resolution and transfer the regulatory responsibilities to us. We now regulate more than 158 investor-owned water and/or wastewater utilities in 36 counties, with jurisdiction over each utility’s rates and charges, territorial authorization, and service.

To meet public health and environmental concerns, multiple state agencies are involved in the regulation of water and wastewater service—including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida’s five Water Management Districts, and the Florida Department of Health. The PSC’s role is economic regulation. In addition to setting rates that provide for a utility’s recovery of reasonable and prudently incurred costs, the PSC continues to design rates and ratemaking policies that further the goals of affordability, conservation, and investment in necessary infrastructure. By setting reasonable water and wastewater rates, we can promote water use efficiency. Accurate pricing also helps us avoid large rate increases in the future.

Those of us with water and wastewater oversight need to work together to find realistic solutions to utilities’ infrastructure renewal and increased operational and maintenance expense challenges. Investments required to meet new drinking water quality standards—adding even more increases to customers’ bills—will have to be considered.

Public education will be important to raise awareness about needed infrastructure renewal and its related increase in operating and maintenance expenses faced by utilities and their customers. Consumers don’t usually think about paying for water as a commodity because they view it as something they get when they turn on their faucets. We have to change that way of thinking by bringing the infrastructure discussion “above ground.”

The Legislature’s plan is a good one to encourage dialogue and solutions among stakeholders who are currently evaluating our state’s water infrastructure needs and costs. The PSC looks forward to working with all stakeholders to develop an equitable resolution to the challenge of funding water and wastewater infrastructure cost-effectively to maintain the water and wastewater systems that are essential to our way of life.

There are five ways to contact us:
Complete an online complaint form at www.floridapsc.com
E-mail contact@psc.state.fl.us
Call our toll-free number, 800-342-3552
Fax information to us toll-free, 800-511-0809

Send a letter to: The Florida Public Service Commission
2540 Shumard Oak Blvd., Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0850

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In August, PSC Commission Conferences are on August 2 and August 14 ♦ Commissioners will hear from Florida Power & Light Company customers about its rate request at customer service hearings in Miami and Miami Gardens on August 7 and in Plantation and Pembroke Pines on August 8 ♦ The Commission will hold a Ten-Year Site Plan workshop on August 13 ♦ Commissioners will question Duke Energy executives on August 13 ♦ The Commission will receive a status report on Progress Energy Florida's Crystal River Nuclear Plant Unit 3 on August 13 ♦ The Commission will hold a technical hearing for FPL's rate increase request on August 20 - August 31.

July Press Releases

Customer Meeting Set for Utilities, Inc. of Pennbrooke 7/16/2012

PSC Continues Renewable Energy Growth with Power Purchase Contract Approval 7/17/2012

PSC Approves New Florida City Gas Rate; Helps Customers Prepare for Storms 7/17/2012

PSC Denies Gulf Power Company's Rate Reconsideration Request 7/17/2012

Rogers to Appear before Florida Public Service Commission 7/17/2012

Notable FPSC Orders
Filed From July 1 - 31, 2012

Gulf Power Company
Docket No. 120001-EI
Order No. PSC-12-0342-PCO-EI
Granting Gulf's petition for a mid-course reduction in the customer fuel charge.
♦   ♦   ♦

Utilities, Inc. of Eagle Ridge
Docket No. 110153-SU
Order No. PSC-12-0346-FOF-SU
Approving stipulation and settlement agreement between Utilities, Inc. and the Office of Public Counsel on the utility's application for increase in wastewater rates; closes docket.
♦   ♦   ♦

Tampa Electric Company
Docket No. 120038-EI
Order No. PSC-12-0356-CO-EI
Consummating order making TECO's petition to modify its vegetation management plan effective; closes docket.
♦   ♦   ♦

Aqua Utilities Florida, Inc.
Docket No. 120157-WS
Order No. PSC-12-0355-PCO-WS
Suspending AUF's tariff pending decision on its request to establish rates for each residential wastewater-only rate band.
♦   ♦   ♦

Access Networks of Florida, LLC
Docket No. 120160-TX
Order No. PSC-12-0379-PAA-TX
Granting Certificate of Authority to Access Networks to provide local telecommunications service; protest due 8/10/12.




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Florida Public Service Commission
2540 Shumard Oak Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0850
1-800-342-3552