Water Regulatory Bill Gets Unanimous House Support

Bill # and Title: SB 362 – Regulation of Water and Wastewater Systems
Authors: Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) and Rep. David Ober (R-Albion)
Summary: This bill requires a cost-benefit analysis and asset-management plan before a new water or wastewater utility can provide service. It also keeps new utilities under the review of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) for 10 years when they could have otherwise opted out of IURC jurisdiction.
Chamber Position: Support

Update/Chamber Action: In the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee on Monday, an amendment was unanimously approved to eliminate conservancy districts and regional water or wastewater districts from the definition of “water or wastewater utility” for purposes of the new law. Then, on March 1, the amended bill passed the House 94-0. It’s now eligible for further action – either a concurrence vote in the Senate (most likely) or a conference committee at the end of session.

The Indiana Chamber continues to be a vocal supporter of this bill. It should reduce the number of small utilities that become distressed or troubled under Indiana law, thus keeping customers’ costs lower.

Next Stop for Distressed Utilities Bill: Governor’s Desk

Bill # and Title: SB 411 – Distressed Utilities
Authors: Sen. Erich Koch (R-Bedford) and Rep. Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo)
Summary: This bill amends a provision in current law concerning the acquisition of distressed water or wastewater utilities to require that, upon filing a petition with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to include the cost differentials of the transaction as part of the acquiring utility company’s rate base, the acquiring utility company must provide notice to its customers that the petition has been filed (current law requires the acquiring utility company to provide notice to its customers if the proposed acquisition will increase the utility’s rates by more than 1% of the utility company’s base annual revenue.). This bill also amends a provision in the law concerning the sale or disposition of a municipally owned utility to provide that in determining whether the sale or disposition according to the parties’ proposed terms and conditions is in the public interest, the IURC shall accept as reasonable the valuation of the property as determined through an appraisal and review made under the procedures set forth in the statute.
Chamber Position: Support

Update/Chamber Action: The Chamber testified in support of the bill before the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee, which approved the measure 11-2 on Monday. On March 1, the bill passed the Senate 95-1; it’s now ready for Gov. Holcomb’s signature.

This legislation is important because it will clarify some issues with current law that have recently been litigated. It also should reduce litigation costs of water/wastewater utilities that would have been rolled into utility rates. And going forward, costs should be controlled through economies of scale

Resource: Greg Ellis at (317) 264-6881 or email: [email protected]