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Paying More For What You Drink: Suez Rate Increase Hearings

by Susan Hellauer
Update 6/16: After publication, we received clarification that Suez serves all of Nyack’s schools, except for the Middle School and the old high school (now BOCES), which are served by Nyack Water. – sh

2013 PSC Desal Hearing. Photo: George Potanovic

2013 PSC Desal Hearing. Photo: George Potanovic


If you have an opinion about whether Suez, the dominant water supplier in Rockland County, should be allowed an 18.7% average rate increase for single family homeowners, the NYS Public Service Commission wants to hear from you this week. The PSC will hold four public hearings on Wed and Thurs (June 15, 16) at 2p and 6p in Stony Point (Wed) and Suffern (Thurs).
According to the Rockland Water Coalition, over half of the increase will go to cover the sunk costs of developing a now discarded prototype desalination plant on Haverstraw Bay.
That plant would have had Suez customers paying twice as much to drink Hudson River water, according to the Rockland Water Coalition.

Why Should I Care?

What if I get my water from the Nyack Water Dept? Why should I care about this? The Rockland Water Coalition says:

  • Rockland County and your town, including some of Nyack’s schools, are Suez water consumers. If they all get hit with a steep and sudden rate increase, you’ll be feeling the impact via your tax bill.
  • The businesses you patronize — restaurants, gyms, shopping malls — are going to have to absorb those water costs, but they won’t do it alone: you’re going to have to help pick up the tab if the rate increase is approved.
  • What happens in Lake DeForest (owned and maintained by Suez) doesn’t stay in Lake DeForest. It feeds the Hackensack River, Nyack Water’s only source.

WHEN AND WHERE:

Wednesday, June 15 at 2p and 6p, Stony Point RHO Building, 5 Clubhouse Lane, Stony Point, NY 10980.

Thursday, June 16 at 2p and 6p, Rockland Community College, Technology Building, Ellipse Auditorium, 145 College Road, Suffern, NY, 10901

United Water — the company since rebranded as Suez — proposed the desalination plant in response to their concerns about future water shortages. A group of individuals and public-interest groups formed the Rockland Water Coalition to investigate these claims as well as serve as an advocacy group to block the proposed desal plant.
In two contentious, crowded hearings in 2013, Rockland residents challenged Suez’s proposed desalination plant as unnecessary. Drinking-water experts agreed. The PSC listened, weighed the evidence, and, in 2015, ultimately pulled the plug on the the planned desalination plant.
Suez is now asking the PSC to approve a rate increase to cover the costs incurred while planning the desalination plant, as part of a $54.5 million “desal mortgage” over 20 years. Across all rate payers, that works out to an average of 13.7%. Among single family homeowners, it averages out to an 18.7% hike.

West_Lake_Deforest_Reservoir_courtesy Suez_0_0

Lake Deforest Reservoir. Photo Credit: Suez


There’s good stuff in the rate hike package as well. “Suez has got incentives in there for customers to buy water-efficient appliances” says the Rockland Water Coalition’s George Potanovic. “There is a tiered system that would have the most water-conserving homes and businesses paying less and the biggest consumers paying more.”
Potanovic says the coalition is encouraging the public to weigh in and attend the hearings.  “The purpose of this is to get the rate increase down to a fair range for the public,” he says.
See also:

 


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