Golden State Water Company announced Tuesday that it supports proposed tighter regulations on water utilities, which a state lawmaker said he crafted in response to complaints about the company.
Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said his constituents in Orange County have complained to him for years, as they have also seen their water rates increase. He said he understood why people were frustrated when they received high bills and could not understand why the increases were necessary.
In Barstow, Golden State plans to raise rates by 27 percent from 2013 to 2015 in Barstow if the California Public Utilities Commission approves the move. The company also raised rates by 20 percent two years ago.
"It's not going to stop rate increases," Huff said, "but it will give constituents a little heads up about what's coming and why."
Golden State said in a statement that greater transparency would help customers understand how the company invests to maintain its water system.
"This legislation gives customers more information so they can see exactly what they're getting when they pay a water bill," said Denise Kruger, senior vice president for regulated utilities at Golden State. "We think that makes sense. In fact, increased transparency by all public water suppliers would help customers better understand the factors that influence the cost of water in California."
Huff said he welcomed the company's support.
"It wasn't their initial knee-jerk response, but I'm glad that they got there at the end of the day," Huff said.
Huff's bill would amend sections of the Public Utilities Code to extend certain provisions to water utilities that currently apply only to gas, electric and telephone utilities. It would also require private water utilities like Golden State Water Company to disclose more of its financial information to regulators and would make it easier to appeal regulatory decisions. Notices of proposed rate increases sent to customers would also have to be more detailed.
The bill is currently in the suspense file at the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is where bills go when the state estimates they will cost more than $250,000 to implement.
The committee may consider the bill at a later date once the state's fiscal situation becomes clearer.
Huff said he was optimistic that he would be able to work to pass the measure.
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