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Higher Sun Cities sewer rates likely

Posted 5/30/17

By Rusty Bradshaw

Independent Newsmedia

If the Arizona Corporation Commission follows the advice of an administrative law judge, Sun Cities residents will see a large increase in their sewer …

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Higher Sun Cities sewer rates likely


By Rusty Bradshaw
Independent Newsmedia

If the Arizona Corporation Commission follows the advice of an administrative law judge, Sun Cities residents will see a large increase in their sewer rates.

An administrative law judge recommended to the commission it order full consolidation of five EPCOR Water Co. wastewater districts. The recommendation was made May 23, and the commission may act on it fairly quickly, according to Greg Eisert, Sun City Home Owners Association board member and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman.

“The commissioners will meet June 13 and have discussion on the case, then they will make their decision,” he said.

As part of its rate request filed in July 2016, EPCOR officials included consolidating five districts — Sun City, Sun City West, Agua Fria Anthem and Mohave — that service Northwest Valley customers. Sun Cities residents have strongly opposed combining the districts because they will pay a heavy price.

EPCOR officials claim their consolidation request stems from an order from the ACC, dating back as far as 2009.

“As it relates to water consolidation, EPCOR is required under an existing order from the Arizona Corporation Commission to file a water consolidation rate case for all of its Arizona districts by July 2018,” Rebecca Stenholm, EPCOR spokeswoman, stated in an email.

The ACC order came in December of that year and was followed up by orders in January 2011 and September 2015.

“We are unable to comment on the ALJ’s recommendation, but we are looking forward to a decision by the Arizona Corporation Commission on EPCOR’s application and the policy of consolidation at an upcoming open meeting,” Ms. Stenholm stated.

Sun City Wastewater District customers are the oldest and poorest of all of EPCOR’s wastewater customers, according to SCHOA’s initial brief. Based on the partial settlement in this case, Sun City’s monthly wastewater rates should increase at most only from $22.11 to $23.70, or 7.2 percent. Instead, if EPCOR officials impose consolidation on Sun City residents it would cause a massive rate increase from $22.11 to $41.02, a 76.3 percent increase. Sun City West rates, under the EPCOR request, would increase from $32.46 to $41.02, a 26 percent increase.

However, customers in the other three districts would see reductions in their wastewater bills under a consolidated district.

“This (ALJ recommendation) is disappointing, but not really surprising,” Mr. Eisert said. “The way the hearing was conducted, you could tell there was a bias.”

If the ACC goes along with full consolidation, EPCOR officials will most likely request full consolidation of its Northwest Valley water districts as well.

“I heard they might not even wait until next year, they would file right away — meaning July,” Mr. Eisert said. “But that is just what I heard.”Ms. Stenholm confirmed a filing this year.

“As we’ve shared with our customers at community meetings, we expect to file that case this year after the Arizona Corporation Commission arrives at a decision on the pending wastewater consolidation case,” she stated.

Mr. Eisert, during a SCHOA board meeting May 23, said water rate increases could be more substantial than the proposed wastewater increase. But Ms. Stenholm could not confirm that.

“We don’t have any numbers to share at this point, though,” she stated. “We have yet to do the calculations.”

Electricity rates

A settlement with Arizona Public Service was finalized earlier this year and eliminated a major bone of contention.

The APS settlement, with a variety of stakeholders, calls for an electricity rate increase, but drops a proposal to make the utility’s demand charge mandatory for all residential customers. The demand charge has been available to customers as an option.

Under the terms of the APS agreement, the utility will be able to raise rates by 4.5 percent. Utility officials had requested revenue increases that would have raised the electricity rate 7.96 percent.

“There are a number of different categories of electricity use — residential, commercial, etc.,” Mr. Eisert said. “So the average bill increase could be higher than the rate increase.”

The agreement also calls for APS to refund to customers an estimated $15 million of savings through a surplus energy efficiency program through the first year of the agreement, according to the utility’s press release.

“We see this as a win for customers,” Mr. Eisert said. “APS was very generous in working with all the factions; they gave up a lot.”


According to APS officials, the agreement will pave the way for investment in a smarter, cleaner energy infrastructure; more choice and control through new rate options for customers; and continued solar leadership for Arizona.


“This agreement demonstrates what can be accomplished when people come together with a willingness to compromise and resolve complex policy issues. Consumer advocates, environmental advocates, business customers, solar industry representatives and more have agreed on a path for Arizona’s energy future. The winners are Arizona electricity customers,” said Don Brandt, APS chairman, president and CEO. “What we have is a blueprint that will bring about more solar, a smarter energy infrastructure, a cleaner energy mix and more options for customers.”

Rusty Bradshaw can be reached at 623-445-2725 or rbradshaw@newszap.com. Continue the discussion at www.testwp05.tecnavia.com/yourvalley/site.