A California Public Utilities Commission ruling left both sides with different takeaways Thursday, officials said.
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The ruling addressed four proceedings: a general rate case, a cost of capital request, a complaint over the Castaic Lake Water Agency’s acquisition of Valencia Water Co.; and a CPUC investigation.
The ruling was called “unprecedented in the water world” by Lynne Plambeck, president of SCOPE, which brought forth the complaint, while Keith Abercrombie, general manager of the Valencia Water Co., said the ruling “really shouldn’t mean anything to our customers going forward.”
The ownership complaint was dismissed by the CPUC, which cited a lack of jurisdiction over the CLWA’s ownership of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, because both are now government-owned utilities.
The CPUC also dismissed the Valencia Water Co.’s application for a rate increase on similar jurisdictional grounds.
The decision cancels the Valencia Water Co. “certificate of public convenience and necessity” needed to operate as a private water company, declaring them a public water agency owned by Castaic Lake Water Agency.
“It dismisses the complaint, however it dismisses the complaint in a way that will make our (Los Angeles County) Superior Court case stronger,” Plambeck said.
However, Dan Masnada, general manager for Castaic Lake Water Agency, drew the opposite conclusion.
“We’ve been victorious on two significant causes of action,” Masnada said, “and despite what SCOPE says, we feel that we’re going to prevail in the defense of the litigation in Superior Court, which will be to the benefit of VWC ratepayers and CLWA residents and business as a whole.”
The next step for the rate increase the VWC proposed is uncertain at this point, Abercrombie said, noting VWC’s board would likely discuss the company’s next move at an April board meeting.
“Obviously, we as a company need to continue looking at our operations and our rates and determine how we can best position ourselves to provide service to our customers,” Abercrombie said. “This decision has just come out so we need to digest it a little more ourselves and understand what steps we need to take to move forward on certain things. I don’t envision anything happening immediately.”
Speaking as president of SCOPE, Plambeck, who also sits on the board of the Newhall Water Co., asked the Valencia Water Co. to “immediately begin holding public meetings and responding to public records act requests. Also, we demand that Castaic Lake Water Agency divest itself of its illegal holding of Valencia Water Company.”
The Castaic Lake Water Agency’s ownership of VWC stock would remain unchanged by the ruling, Masnada said.
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Source: Santa Clarita News