(The Center Square) – A new bill has been filed that would give water customers a say before their public utility goes private.
Marking World Water Day 2021 on Monday, state Sen. John Connor said his bill would require private water companies to give taxpayers an individual vote before their city or village sells the public water system.
The Citizen’s Utility Board said Illinois’ two largest private water companies have hit consumers with more than $220 million in higher water bills to cover a shopping spree as it bought up 34 water and wastewater systems around the state.
A 2013 law allows the two companies to impose rate hikes to cover the costs of the acquisitions. The law allows the companies to raise rates up to 2.5% to cover a single acquisition or a total of 5% for multiple acquisitions.
“I believe people who are on a public water system, both as taxpayers and water bill payers, deserve an individual voting say before a structural change in their local government takes place,” Connor said.
Illinois American Water said the legislation would add unnecessary delays.
“Many of these cities and villages were facing significant infrastructure and customer service challenges that had not been addressed due to lack of funds and/or expertise," Illinois American Water said in a statement. "The proposed legislation adds an unnecessary delay to acquisitions that have already been approved by local elected officials, with input from their residents and businesses. No community is required to sell their system. If local leaders choose to go down this path, the current law includes open, transparent discussions at City meetings and regulatory oversight.”
A request for a statement from Aqua went unanswered.
Bryan McDaniel, CUB’s director of governmental affairs, said the consumer loses when a private company is in charge of your water.
“Profit-seeking investment helps drive bills higher, putting a corporation between the people and a resource critical to life,” McDaniel said. “There is no life without water.”
March 22, 2021 at 09:46PM