Water and Wastewater Utility Systems
Two different bills dealing with Water and Wastewater Utility Systems were heard this week. The House bill (HB 357 – Santiago) was heard this week in its first of three committees of reference, the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee. The House bill seeks to adopt several of the recommendations of the Study Committee on Investor-Owned Water and Wastewater Utility Systems created by the legislature in 2012 to address rate-payer concerns. Among other things, the bill:
- Expands the availability of low-interest loans through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) to all for-profit water utilities.
- Provides a sales tax exemption for sales or leases to an investor-owned water or wastewater utility (IOU) owned or operated by a Florida corporation.
- Creates an exemption from Public Service Commission (PSC) regulation for persons who resell water service to individually-metered end-users at a price that does not exceed the purchase price of water plus 9%, or the purchase price of water plus actual costs of meter reading and billing.
- Authorizes the PSC, during a rate case, to create an individual IOU reserve fund to be used for projects identified in an IOU’s capital improvement plan, with disbursement subject to approval by the PSC.
- Identifies specific types of expenses eligible for “pass-through” treatment in IOU rates and authorizes the PSC, by rule, to identify additional types of expenses eligible for such treatment, provided the expenses are beyond the utility’s control.
The bill was passed by the committee (after amendments were withdrawn), and will now move on to the Finance & Tax Subcommittee.
A Senate bill (SB 272 – Simpson) was also heard this week in the Community Affairs Committee, its final stop before reaching the Senate floor. The Senate bill creates a process whereby customers may petition the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to require compliance with secondary water quality standards, and should the utility fail to comply with orders, the PSC could ultimately revoke the utility’s certificate of authority. The bill provides criteria and factors the PSC must consider in its review of the petition and the actions it may take.
The bill adds secondary water standards to the rate setting criteria and guidelines for these secondary water standards. The bill authorizes the PSC to deny rate increases if it determines that the quality of water or wastewater service is less than satisfactory. It also requires an estimate of the costs and benefits of solutions and meetings with the customers to discuss these costs and to determine if they are worthwhile.
The bill passed unanimously with a CS and will now move on to the Senate floor.
The House bill (HB 325 - Stone) was heard in the Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee, its first of three committee stops. The bill revises the process for designating brownfield areas and specifies the criteria that must be met when a brownfield designation is proposed by a local government, or other entity. The bill clarifies notice and hearing requirements and other criteria that must be met for brownfield designation proposals. The bill also provides relief from liability for claims of property damage caused by contamination for those who successfully implement a site rehabilitation agreement. The bill was passed and will move on to the Local and Federal Affairs Committee.
The Senate companion (SB 586 – Altman) was also heard this week in the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. The bill passed unanimously with a CS, and will now move on to Community Affairs.
This week, bills pertaining to Florida’s spiny lobsters were also heard in both chambers. The bills (HB 47- Raschein and SB 194 – Latvala) The bills prohibit the possession of spiny lobsters during the closed season and the possession on the water of “wrung-tails” (spiny lobster tails that have been wrung or separated from the body). The bills increase criminal penalties, impose civil fines, and provide for suspension or revocation of licenses for multiple offenses relating to spiny lobsters.
The House bill was passed unanimously by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, its second of four committees of reference, and will now move on to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. The Senate bill was passed unanimously by the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, and will now move on to Criminal Justice, its final committee stop.