News Feature | April 17, 2014

Two Florida Bills Could Give Ratepayers More Influence Over Water Utilities

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

floridastatehousereg

Two separate measures under consideration in the Florida state legislature give ratepayers more of a voice against their water companies, and now it looks possible the bills may merge. 

Sen. Wilton Simpson recently indicated that he would like to come to an agreement with Sen. Alan Hays, who is promoting a starkly different bill, according to the Florida Current. Both senators are Republicans. 

The bills contain some key differences.

Hays' bill, SB 1050, "would allow the Public Service Commission to consider secondary water quality standards including taste and odor when setting rates for water utilities," the Current reported. 

"The bill follows the 2013 recommendations of a study committee created by the Legislature to deal with complaints about private water utilities," the report said. 

Simpson's bill, SB 272, "would allow water utility customers to petition the Public Service Commission to revoke the operating certificate of water utilities because of complaints," the report said. 

How do water companies feel? Not positive.

"The National Association of Water Companies opposes both bills because they create regulatory uncertainty that could discourage investment in Florida water utilities," the report said, citing Matthew McCaffree, director of regulatory affairs.

"The Florida Rural Water Association opposes the Simpson bill but supports the Hays bill because it came from the 2013 study group recommendations which the association was part of," the report said, citing Gary Williams, association executive director.

Florida lawmakers are also considering legislation that could affect the wastewater sector. 

"A pair of bills that would delay a ban on spreading septic tank waste on land as required in 2010 springs legislation are moving through the House and Senate with environmental opposition having been dropped," the Florida Current reported recently in a separate article

The Florida legislature passed water utility legislation during its 2013 session. SB 948 strengthened "the role of agriculture in water supply planning process," the Florida Environmental & Water Law blog reported

"Additionally, SB 948 adds utility companies, private landowners, water consumers...to the list of entities that should cooperate to meet water needs," the blog said. 

For more on government oversight, check out Water Online's Legislation and Regulations Solution Center

Image credit: "Old Florida State House," © 2010 M. Fox, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

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