To the Honorable Members of the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives who represent ratepayers in the Chester Water Authority service area
RE: Chester Water Authority (“CWA”) Update No. 16
November 22, 2021
TITLE: Chester Water Authority’s November 16, 2021 letter to the participants in the Annual Joint Meeting of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (“DEP”) Citizens Advisory Council and Environmental Justice Advisory Board (copy attached).
Question of the day: Because the DCED is working against them, must Pennsylvanians go to the Federal Government and/or the United Nations to get their Constitutional rights protected?
CWA’s letter points out that the Governor’s Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”) is working vigorously in opposition to the “so-called goals” of Governor Wolf’s recently-issued Executive Order for Environmental Justice, which claims to be designed to support low-income communities and communities of color that are adversely impacted by environmental issues. The DCED is ignoring the Order.
Governor Wolf’s Order (copy attached) defines “environmental justice” as “[t]he fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the Commonwealth’s development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”
But, as it relates to our drinking water the Governor’s DCED is doing just the opposite. DCED’s hostile takeover plan of CWA would force all CWA customers but especially its low-income customers in Chester City, Delaware County and Chester County to pay two to three times more for their drinking water. These CWA customers are the affected Pennsylvanians that would be victimized by the DCED’s plans.
So, what exactly does “environmental justice” mean?
Earlier this month, the national, non-profit advocacy group, Food & Water Watch, filed an amicus brief in support of the CWA’s appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to stop Aqua Pennsylvania’s attempt to take over the Authority’s water system. “In its brief, Food & Water Watch points out that the most immediate effect of the takeover is likely to be a dramatic increase in water rates — the most predictable consequence of corporate water privatization in Pennsylvania and across the country. The water bill burden in Chester would go from about 1.2 percent of median household income to 3.3 percent of median household income, a level generally deemed unaffordable by the Environmental Protection Agency and the United Nations.”
As Governor Wolf’s Executive Order recognizes, inequities in access to safe drinking water offend the core constitutional rights of the people who reside in these affected communities.
Given all that we know about Aqua and the financial plight of many of Chester’s residents, it is alarming that DCED officials—who have sworn to “support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth” are advocating for the seizure and sale of the CWA to a for-profit corporation.
The statements of the Wolf administration are in contradiction to their actions.
When the Receiver for the City of Chester, Michael Doweary, makes statements like “[t]he Receiver hereby directs the City to continue litigating for its ability to repossess and sell the assets of the Chester Water Authority,” as asserted in the Receiver’s August 2020 Recovery Plan, is he aware of the punitive financial consequences that a sale would impose upon these affected Pennsylvanians? Does he care? Or is he more concerned with benefiting the government of the City than its affected residents?
It is simply not enough for our elected and appointed state officials to pay lip service to “environmental justice.” They must acknowledge the real hardships that low-income communities and communities of color face in affording their water, and the real harm that will befall these communities if the CWA is sold to a for-profit corporation.
Who will help the affected Pennsylvanians?
Any questions or comments should be directed to Chester Water Authority. It is best to communicate with CWA via email, email@example.com