EPCOR rate request back before ACC

March 25, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — The Bullhead City Council last week decided to begin exploring the option of taking over water service from EPCOR Water Arizona, Inc., by hiring a company to determine the worth of the water system.

However, it also continues to oppose EPCOR’s interim rate request filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

There will be an ACC open hearing in Phoenix at 10 a.m. Thursday about the utility company’s request. Commissioners of the regulatiory body will discuss the matter and possibly make a decision that day.

Among new evidence presented will be the findings of Administrative Law Judge Belinda Martin. She heard arguments for and against EPCOR’s interim proposal last month, and she has decided interim rates could be sought by the utility company.

In Martin’s lengthy order filed with the ACC on March 12, for example, customers in the Mohave district would receive a rate increase of 26.63 percent and North Mohave customers would be told to pay 34.25 percent more.

For Mohave customers, that would be a rise from $26.25 to $33.24 and North Mohave from $25.98 to $34.88. Both dollar amounts are based on average water use.

Sun City water customers would receive a rate increase of 38.13 percent while Tubac customers would see their bills decrease by nearly 21 percent.

EPCOR’s interim rate request came after the ACC rejected its 2017 case for consolidation and rates on Jan. 25 by a 2-2 vote.

Steven Wene, the attorney representing Bullhead City in this case, responded to Martin’s finding by disagreeing that the ACC vote wasn’t “final.”

“In conclusion, as the name implies, ‘interim rates’ apply when the company is waiting on the Commission to act, which is no longer the case,” Wene wrote. “The Commission is not delaying its decision on a rate increase — the issue has already been decided.”

He also disagrees with the need for the request from Commissioner Justin Olson, who wants to include the consolidation and rate case on the agenda during the interim rate open meeting on Thursday.

“The rules do not contemplate for rate applications to simply lapse because Commissioners fail on their initial attempt to find consensus,” Olson wrote to ACC Chairman Bob Burns.

“EPCOR did not file a motion for reconsideration nor did the Commission remand the matter,” Wene noted in his filing in response to Martin’s order.

One thing Martin doesn’t agree with EPCOR about: the utility’s argument that it should be able to obtain the interim raise beginning Feb. 1.

New rates “will not become effective until after they have been approved by the Commission,” she wrote.

To see a livestream of the proceeding on Thursday, go to www.azcc.gov/