Ruling limits Jefferson Utilities Inc. to 4.4 percent water rate increase
June 25, 2011
CHARLES TOWN - The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals issued a ruling this week affirming a decision by the state's Public Service Commission that impacts more than 2,000 Jefferson County residents.
The court affirmed the PSC's February decision to grant Jefferson Utilities Inc. a 4.4 percent increase in its water rates.
JUI, a utility company owned by Lee Snyder, provides service to approximately 2,196 customers in Jefferson County. It filed for a water rate increase on June 30, which would have represented an increase of roughly 72.2 percent before the application of a previously approved $12 monthly surcharge.
The PSC's Water Utility Cost Ranking as of June 17 lists JUI's rates at $53.99 per 4,000 gallons of water, the 13th highest rate in the state.
A recommended decision on the case, issued by a PSC administrative law judge on Jan. 7 following a two-day public hearing on the matter in Ranson last year, called for a 22.4 percent rate increase, but the PSC approved the lower increase of 4.4 percent. Snyder and JUI appealed the decision, alleging an error by the PSC.
"In this appeal, JUI contends that the Commission erred by rejecting the 22.4 percent rate increase recommended by the administrative law judge," the court's ruling read. "Upon consideration of the briefs and oral argument, as well as the submitted record and pertinent authorities, the final order of the Commission is affirmed.
"Upon careful review of the record submitted to this Court and upon of the applicable law, we find no clear error," the ruling continued. "The Commission's decision is not arbitrary or the result of a misapplication of legal principles. Rather ... the Commission's order is supported by substantial evidence in the record."
The reason for JUI's requested rate increases has been so that the company does not lose money in the process of providing water service, according to what Snyder has said in the past. Snyder could not be reached through his office or by e-mail to comment for this article Friday.
"I would characterize there being no justice in it," Snyder told The Journal in a Feb. 23 article after the PSC granted JUI the 4.4 percent rate increase. "We'll just continue what we've done for 13 years, lose money."
Citizens for Fair Water, a grassroots group comprised of Jefferson County residents, was organized to protest JUI rate increases last year.
"We're very happy that the Supreme Court upheld the decision, and we feel that they made the right decision on behalf of the citizens," said organization president Craig Daniel in a phone interview Friday.