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STOP BIG WATER

Pennsylvania water and wastewater ratepayers are seeing skyrocketing costs with no quantifiable improvement in service or infrastructure when their local utility is sold to a large for-profit, investor-owned utility - Big Water.

These sales are driven by money; profits for the purchasing utility and large sums of money for the local municipality. The ratepayer has no say, but is left to pay the bill. The rights of the ratepayers are ignored by local politicians, our state legislators, the governor and the Public Utilities Commission.

 

To avoid an unwanted takeover and the skyrocketing costs that go with it, ratepayers need to get involved and act fast.

 

We are here to help!

Opposing water and wastewater privatization is difficult. The deck is stacked against the ratepayer.

 

Big Water always enters with the upper hand.

At the local level there are three players involved in the sale of a municipal water or wastewater system, the selling utility, the buying utility, and the ratepayer, who will end up paying the bill. However, the rate payer is left out of the process. This leaves it up to the local officials to do what they think is best for their constituents. But these officials are not paid commensurate with their responsibilities. They need to balance their lives, which requires focus on their job and their family, likely leaving little time to delve deeply into the issues.

Few residents follow issues in their local community.  Most local issues are mundane and uninteresting, and town meetings are poorly attended. As a result, important decisions are too often made with little or no public input.  With regularly scheduled public meetings, the local government can claim an open process and disclaim responsibility after the fact.  Unfortunately, most residents are caught off guard when they learn their municipality is selling a utility.

Big Water knows this and they have spent years honing their tactics. They know the local officials will listen to their side of the story, and with the offer of a large amount of money, local officials will probably not take the time to challenge what they are told. Big Water knows how to "spin" any information shared with ratepayers using vague statements and promises.

So, what can you do?

Our data show that a fair evaluation of

cost/benefit of a municipal utility sale will show

that the cost outweighs any benefit.

This should be the main focus of any opposition.

To successfully oppose a privatization effort in your community you need to not only understand the real economics involved in a utility sale, but also the political playing field in Pennsylvania and the tactics of Big Water.

We have spent two years researching these issues, attending township meetings, talking to ratepayers, hosting informational meetings, testifying before utility boards, talking to reporters, publishing OPED pieces in newspapers, and recently testifying before a Senate legislative committee from Harrisburg. 

 

This website is organized to provide all we have learned to help anyone facing an unwanted takeover of their municipal utility.

Follow these links to get started

Economics

PA Politics

The New Garden Township Story

The links above provide valuable and substantiated information. But you need more than information, you also need time and tenacity. Here are some helpful suggestions.

Be aware

  • Attend municipality meetings even if the sale is not on the agenda

  • Or, at least read agendas and minutes.

  • Watch for early warning signs.

  • If local officials are talking about failing infrastructure, increasing regulatory requirements and they have more important things to worry about, you can bet that they have been approached by a private utility.

  • Then when they say they are “considering a sale”, their minds have been made up.

Identify resources

Find someone in your community with a strong financial background. This is critical. Big Water does not want you to understand the real costs of a sale. They will present the “advantages” of the deal with vague arguments and vague financial information. The largest disadvantage, the financial burden on the ratepayer, is downplayed, if even discussed.


You need to understand the details, and talk intelligently about them. Opposition to a sale requires a clear quantitative understanding of all the facts, pro and con. This requires work, time, and tenacity. 

Understand issues specific to your community

  • Local officials usually claim expensive repairs or upgrades are needed. Demand a detailed, independent accounting of all repairs.

  • Local officials will put a price tag on these repairs. Again, demand a detailed, independent accounting of all costs, including payment options.

  • They will claim by selling, the buyer can perform the repairs cheaper.  Follow this link to debunk this claim.

  • Demand to know how rates will rise after a sale. They will claim they cannot accurately predict rates because rates are set by the PUC. Rates are determined by the amount of their investment (purchase price). They can tell you what future rates will be. Only the timing may be questionable. Follow this (future link) for more information.

Organize and Act

  • A lone voice will not be heard. Local officials need to know there is broad opposition.

  • Attend all municipal meetings, even if the sale is not on the agenda, and listen for the warning signs. Ask for detailed updates at each meeting.

  • Be heard. Ask questions and demand answers, especially when discussing potential rate increases. They will claim they can’t predict rate increases because they are set by the PUC. This is an evasive maneuver. 

  • Demand access to all information.

  • Demand a referendum on the sale. If the sale is as beneficial as claimed, there should be no hesitation to make the case and hold a referendum.

  • Contact your state representatives. Tell them you oppose the sale and tell them to support ratepayer protection legislation.

  • Testify at PUC hearings. Any utility sale will include public input hearings. Testify with facts and figures. Don’t just say the sale will raise your rates and you can’t afford it. They don’t care about that. Point out the negative impact on the economy and demand a quantitative analysis of the sale to determine public good.

All of this takes work, but it is time and effort well spent. Once a sale goes through you will be stuck with inflated costs for many years to come.

All of this requires being well informed. Private utilities and local officials like to talk in generalities. Because they cannot justify a sale on financial terms. Build a financial case and demand answers.

We are here to help. Contact us at keepwateraffordable@gmail.com

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