(Last updated: May 11, 2022)
If you are a current CWA customer, this affects you.
If Aqua is allowed to take over the CWA, all CWA customers, regardless of where they live, will pay significantly higher water rates. Expert analysis has concluded that the average residential customer in the CWA’s service area would end up paying more than $500 extra per year under Aqua’s rates. In effect, rates would double or triple for CWA customers. This impact would be especially devastating to low income and fixed income residents, many of whom are already below the poverty line. Also, large commercial and industrial customers in the City and elsewhere in the CWA’s service area would end up paying millions of dollars more under Aqua’s rates. And, if the CWA is sold to Aqua, it will be CWA ratepayers who will pay for Aqua’s future acquisitions. Every single CWA ratepayer will be chipping in to provide the funds that Aqua will use when it goes down the road to the next town.
Aqua has claimed that, if it were to buy the CWA, it would keep rates flat for 10 years. This is a hollow promise because, while Aqua routinely requests increases in rates, it does not ultimately set them—the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) does. The PUC does so under a policy known as “single tariff pricing,” which requires similar customers to pay similar prices for similar services, and therefore, prohibits special treatment for certain water customers—the kind of special treatment that Aqua’s purported “rate freeze” would entail. That means if CWA ratepayers become Aqua ratepayers, they will need to pay rates similar to what Aqua charges its ratepayers—rates much higher than what they pay under the CWA.
Also, nowhere in its 58-page proposed Asset Purchase Agreement is there any mention of any effort to keep water rates stabilized. Aqua clearly does not want the public to know that its promises are hollow—its Asset Purchase Agreement had to be obtained through Right to Know Law requests after being withheld from the public.
Finally, even if Aqua actually had the ability to promise temporary rate stability, what would happen after that period of stability expires? What is to keep Aqua from imposing massive rate increases in the future?
If you are a current Aqua customer, this affects you.
Even if you are not a CWA ratepayer, but instead, a current Aqua customer, this fight affects you as well. Aqua is proposing to spend $420 million to buy the CWA. The money to fund this acquisition would come right out of the pockets of current Aqua customers. As The Guardian has explained:
“In 2016, Pennsylvania became the first state to pass legislation that allows private companies to buy public utilities for more than they are worth – relying on what’s known as fair market value rather than depreciated value. Companies can recoup the over-priced investments by passing on the cost to all their customers through statewide rate hikes, meaning residents pay while shareholders reap the rewards.”
It has been widely reported that “current Aqua customers are looking at rate hike requests ranging from 20.49 percent in Bensalem to an 86 percent increase in Sun Valley. It’s part of Aqua’s systemwide 17.86 percent increase currently before the PUC.” What massive rate increases await Aqua’s customers if Aqua spends $420 million to buy the CWA?
If you are someone who cares about the outdoors or preserving open space, this affects you.
This also impacts you if you are someone who enjoys the outdoors or cares about preserving southeastern Pennsylvania’s ever-shrinking open space from being sold and developed. That is because, if Aqua is successful in taking over the CWA, the two-billion-gallon Octoraro Reservoir and its 2000 acres of surrounding land in Lancaster County—pristine open space currently available for public enjoyment—will, in all likelihood, be closed off to the public forever. Aqua has done this to public open space before. In denying that it would treat the Octoraro Reservoir like Delaware County’s Springton Reservoir (that is, closing it off to the general public and selling off the surrounding land to developers despite the obvious lack of public use that results from land development), Aqua has asked the public to trust its words, not its actions. However, nowhere in its proposed Asset Purchase Agreement does it mention the Octoraro Reservoir even once.
Currently, the Octoraro Reservoir and its untouched surrounding land is home to wildlife including bald eagles, herons, wild turkeys, and more. The reservoir and the surrounding watershed are widely used for non-polluting public recreation, such as fishing, boating, kayaking, hiking, bird watching, and hunting. It is all free and open to the community for enjoyment and recreation. If you care about protecting the Octoraro Reservoir and its surrounding land, and preserving the public’s access to this open space, this fight affects you.
Let your lawmakers know this affects you!
Everyone affected by Aqua’s hostile takeover attempt must make their voices heard. Support the bipartisan effort to save the CWA—click here to make your voice heard before it is too late!