CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Wednesday was the first day of the evidentiary hearing for West Virginia American Water’s rate increase case.
The water company is requesting an up to 26% rate increase that would go into effect in late February if approved by the Public Service Commission, which translates into an extra $9.56 a month for ratepayers.
On Tuesday, no one showed up for the public hearing to weigh in on how the increase may affect them.
“We had nobody show up, which was very disappointing,” said West Virginia Public Service Commission Chairman Charlotte Lane.
The last time the company requested a rate increase was in 2018.
WVAW says there are two primary drivers behind their request for this increase.
“We’ve invested $252 million in upgrading our infrastructure and also complying with EPA requirements for our water quality and that type of thing, so lots of investment since that last request,” said Megan Hannah, West Virginia American Water’s external affairs manager.
The second reason is the loss of population and declining consumption in the state, as their ratepayer base gets smaller.
“Just because people are leaving West Virginia doesn’t mean the costs associated with delivering water service goes down,” she said.
Earlier this month, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper made a post on the County’s social media page saying West Virginia already has one of the highest water rates in the country.
Still, WVAW says it’s unfair to compare the rates for West Virginia to other states that are flatter like Ohio and Florida.
“West Virginia has the most mountainous terrain in the country and as such, it is incredibly difficult to pump water up and down mountains to get to our customers’ homes,” said Hannah.
Carper says if no one showed up to Tuesday’s public hearing, it’s because people have given up.
“They write letters, they complain; I mean everyone knows water rates are too high, they go in and say ‘look we need more money so we can fix what we didn’t take care of for 20 years, we need more money so we can bring more people water’ — people have just given up, they just assume they’re going to get their way, they usually do,” he said.
West Virginia American Water services around 170,000 customers.
The next public hearing on the case is in Bluefield.