Claremont, Golden State Water Co. clash over revenue proposal

CLAREMONT>> The city and Golden State Water Co. continue to battle, this time over the water company’s application to the state Public Utilities Commission to increase revenues over a three-year period.

The PUC will hold a hearing on Tuesday in San Francisco to review Claremont’s petition. In the latest battle with the company, Claremont is seeking intervener party status so it may advocate for consumers — residents, businesses, and educational institutions — on proposed revenue hikes.

In July, San Dimas-based Golden State Water asked the PUC for slight revenue increases for Region 3, which includes Claremont, San Dimas, Apple Valley and Wrightwood. The water provider has asked the PUC to increase revenues by 0.68 percent in 2016; 2.41 percent increase in 2017; and 2.69 percent increase in 2018. The increases would help finance improvements and capital investments, officials said.

Despite the revenue increases, customers in the city will see a decrease in their monthly bills, said Benjamin Lewis, General Manager for the Foothill District for Golden State Water Company.

“The General Rate Case proposes to lower customer bills in 2016, maintain lower bills than current totals in 2017, and encourages high-water use customers to use water wisely during the state’s worst drought in recent history,” said Lewis in an email statement.

In its protest, Claremont is asking the water company to release financial information involving office expenditures and capital projects, to understand better how those costs impact current and future rates.

“The City also objects to the numerous memorandum accounts that make it virtually impossible for ratepayers and Commissioners to determine the real impact of the rate application on ratepayer’s water bills,” according to a statement by Claremont.

Lewis said the PUC’s 18-month General Rate Case process is the most transparent and more in-depth for any provider, public or private.

“The public will have ample time to review the revenue and expenses detailed as part of the process,” Lewis said.

Claremont is not the only agency opposed to the proposal, the Office of Ratepayers Advocates — a division within CPUC — has also protested the general rate case.

The city has requested that a public hearing be held in the city in September or October.

City officials have been fighting with the water company over its rate increases since 2012 and is considering using eminent domain to take over the water system. Earlier this summer, the City Council approved a ballot initiative, known as Measure W, which would allow Claremont to use up to $135 million in bonds to acquire the water system.