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PSC Asks Senate For More Power Over WAPA

Aug. 9, 2008 — The V.I. Public Services Commission asked the Legislature during budget hearings Friday for changes in its enabling legislation to broaden its ability to regulate the V.I. Water and Power Authority.
The PSC regulates public utilities including ferry services, telephone service and water and power. The V.I. Supreme Court recently ruled the PSC's enabling legislation only gives the commission power to set rates, PSC Chairman Joseph Boschulte said. (See "PSC Looks to Federal Courts in WAPA Dispute.")
PSC attorney Tanisha Bailey-Roka said this hinders the PSC's ability to function.
"We need legislation to do what we are mandated to do," she said. "Without it, our only tool is a sledgehammer. We can approve rates or not approve them."
Boschulte had draft legislation ready. The principal change to the law would give the PSC power to prohibit WAPA from carrying out certain actions.
"These proposed legislative changes do not only affect (WAPA) specifically but could dramatically alter the efficacy of the commission in regulating all utilities within the territory," he said.
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson called a brief recess during which he gave the changes requested by the PSC to an aide to be written up as a bill, which Nelson said he would introduce immediately if no other senator had already done so.
Bailey-Roka thanked Nelson.
"We have been locked into this battle for years," she said. Bailey-Roka added that if the Legislature passed such a bill, "it would be a real tool in the arsenal of the PSC to better regulate WAPA. … I assure you we have no intention to micromanage their operations."
At the outset of the hearing, PSC member M. Thomas Jackson commented on the light attendance. Only Nelson was present for the duration of that hearing.
"I am a little perturbed today," Jackson said. "I am a private businessman and take offense that I am required to leave my business and be here today and so many of your colleagues who are paid for this are not here."
Nelson asked some questions about the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause; the LEAC fuel surcharge that makes up the largest part of ratepayer's utility bills.
"I am familiar with WAPA's predicament, with the cost of oil going up," Nelson said. "When they get these (LEAC) increases do they surpass the cost of the oil itself?"
"No they do not surpass the cost of fuel," Boschulte said. "In fact they are under-recovering. However the question of the PSC is should they pass that cost along to the customers… whether or not they are as efficient as they should be."
PSC Director Keithley Joseph presented a 2009 budget request of $1.5 million, all of which would come out of the PSC Revolving Fund, which the PSC replenishes by assessing levies on the utilities it regulates.
No votes were taken. Nelson was present. Absent were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Neville James, Ronald Russell, Juan Figueroa-Serville and James Weber III.
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Aug. 9, 2008 -- The V.I. Public Services Commission asked the Legislature during budget hearings Friday for changes in its enabling legislation to broaden its ability to regulate the V.I. Water and Power Authority.
The PSC regulates public utilities including ferry services, telephone service and water and power. The V.I. Supreme Court recently ruled the PSC's enabling legislation only gives the commission power to set rates, PSC Chairman Joseph Boschulte said. (See "PSC Looks to Federal Courts in WAPA Dispute.")
PSC attorney Tanisha Bailey-Roka said this hinders the PSC's ability to function.
"We need legislation to do what we are mandated to do," she said. "Without it, our only tool is a sledgehammer. We can approve rates or not approve them."
Boschulte had draft legislation ready. The principal change to the law would give the PSC power to prohibit WAPA from carrying out certain actions.
"These proposed legislative changes do not only affect (WAPA) specifically but could dramatically alter the efficacy of the commission in regulating all utilities within the territory," he said.
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson called a brief recess during which he gave the changes requested by the PSC to an aide to be written up as a bill, which Nelson said he would introduce immediately if no other senator had already done so.
Bailey-Roka thanked Nelson.
"We have been locked into this battle for years," she said. Bailey-Roka added that if the Legislature passed such a bill, "it would be a real tool in the arsenal of the PSC to better regulate WAPA. ... I assure you we have no intention to micromanage their operations."
At the outset of the hearing, PSC member M. Thomas Jackson commented on the light attendance. Only Nelson was present for the duration of that hearing.
"I am a little perturbed today," Jackson said. "I am a private businessman and take offense that I am required to leave my business and be here today and so many of your colleagues who are paid for this are not here."
Nelson asked some questions about the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause; the LEAC fuel surcharge that makes up the largest part of ratepayer's utility bills.
"I am familiar with WAPA's predicament, with the cost of oil going up," Nelson said. "When they get these (LEAC) increases do they surpass the cost of the oil itself?"
"No they do not surpass the cost of fuel," Boschulte said. "In fact they are under-recovering. However the question of the PSC is should they pass that cost along to the customers... whether or not they are as efficient as they should be."
PSC Director Keithley Joseph presented a 2009 budget request of $1.5 million, all of which would come out of the PSC Revolving Fund, which the PSC replenishes by assessing levies on the utilities it regulates.
No votes were taken. Nelson was present. Absent were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Neville James, Ronald Russell, Juan Figueroa-Serville and James Weber III.
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.