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V.I. Supreme Court: PSC Lacks Power to Settle Billing Complaints

The V.I. Public Services Commission does not have jurisdiction to resolve billing complaints between V.I. Water and Power Authority and its customers, the V.I. Supreme Court determined in an opinion filed Monday.

In the opinion authored by Chief Justice Rhys Hodge, the justices upheld a 2010 V.I. Superior Court decision, where Superior Court Judge James Carroll III sustained WAPA’s appeal of a 1993 PSC order directing WAPA to change customer Granada del Mar’s bill, vacated the PSC order and directed the PSC to dismiss del Mar’s complaint.

Carroll based his ruling on the 2008 V.I. Supreme Court decision, V.I. Public Services Commission v. V.I. Water and Power Authority, as did Hodge in the opinion filed Monday. That case determined the law gave the PSC authority only to set rates for WAPA, and instead gave WAPA’s governing board broad powers over the government-owned utility.

"PSC has failed, however, to delineate any legitimate reason why this Court should not follow its previous decision," Hodge wrote. "Instead, PSC essentially puts forth the same argument it previously made in PSC v. WAPA I. Since PSC has failed to present this Court with any legitimate reason why we should overrule our previous decision, we reject PSC’s argument and conclude that PSC does not have the authority to settle billing disputes between WAPA and its customers."

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The court’s ruling settles a dispute between the PSC and WAPA that began in 1993, when del Mar filed a complaint with the PSC complaining a faulty water meter led to inaccurate water bills. The PSC found for del Mar and ordered WAPA to correct the customer’s account. The PSC then denied WAPA’s motion for reconsideration, and WAPA filed an appeal in Superior Court.

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