“Rockland rate-payers are being hosed.”–Ed Day
“Rockland County has taken legal action in state court to try to keep Suez New York water ratepayers from paying the cost of an ill-fated scheme by the utility and two state agencies to build a desalination plant on the Hudson River in Haverstraw.
The legal action claims the state Department of Public Service didn’t verify all of Suez’s expenditures related to the nearly $40 million the company says it spent pursuing the plant, but instead did merely a sample audit of the invoices.
The state Public Service Commission violated its responsibility by finding the limited audit was adequate, according to the county’s legal papers.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day announced the legal action, filed Friday, at a press conference Monday morning. The plant was rejected after six years of studies and millions of dollars in costs.
Suez is seeking to recoup $54 million the company says it spent on the plant, which accounts for half of the $8.17 per month rate increase the company has requested. The average monthly bill for Suez customers would rise from $61.77 to $69.94, according to Suez.
The rates, which would go into effect Feb. 1, 2017, need Public Service Commission approval.
“Rockland County is being asked to pay millions for a desalination plant that will never be built,” Day said.
Day noted the state PSC rejected the plant in 2014 as unnecessary and then denied Suez reimbursement of its costs, saying one reason was no construction had commenced. But in February during a rehearing, the PSC found Suez was eligible to recover expenses after Suez submitted 9,532 pages of schedules and heavily redacted invoices for legal and non-legal costs, according to the county’s legal action.
Suez sought the reimbursement after the PSC told the water company to abandon the desalination plant in December. The agency then approved $39 million the company wants customers to reimburse for the scratched Haverstraw Water Treatment Supply. The PSC is reviewing another $15 million, according to the company.
The Public Service Commission was supposed to be the watchdog for the consumer, making sure that the water company acted responsibly,” Day said. “Suez did not act responsibly. The costs they are looking to have us pay are not just and reasonable.
“The PSC acted like the fox watching the hen house.” he said.
Read the full text of the Journal News story and video of Day’s press conference here.