SUEZ Water Owego-Nichols, Inc. Proposed Rate Increase Case 17-W-0528

In August 2017, SUEZ Water Owego-Nichols, Inc. (SWON) requested the New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) approve proposed changes to its water service rates. The Company serves approximately 1,600 customers, representing about 5,500 residents in Tioga County.

SWON’s filing includes the utility’s proposed new rates and documentation in support of its proposal. Once the filing was received, formal rate case proceedings were initiated. Department of Public Service (DPS) Staff began an analysis of the Company’s request to evaluate whether – or to what extent – a rate increase is justified. DPS Staff represent the public interest in rate proceedings and evaluate such requests with the goal of ensuring safe and reliable service at just and reasonable rates.

Information Sessions and Public Statement Hearings

The Commission is seeking comments on the Company’s proposed increase to water service rates. The comments made at the public statement hearings have become part of the formal case record in this proceeding and will be presented to the Commission for consideration. The Commission may adopt or reject SWON’s proposal in whole or in part, or modify it.

Interested members of the public were invited to attend the public statement hearings held on November 8, 2017 and invited to provide comments regarding the proposal.* The hearings were preceded by an information session where representatives from the company described the Company’s filing and DPS Staff explained the rate case process and advised how individuals can participate.

*Persons with disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact the DPS's Human Resources Management Office at 518-474-2520 as soon as possible. Telecommunication Relay Service users may request a sign language interpreter by calling the New York Relay Service at 711. Individuals with difficulty understanding English are encouraged to call DPS at 1-800-342-3377 for free language assistance services.

    On August 25, 2017, SWON filed for new water rates to be effective from August 1, 2018 through July 31, 2019. According to the filing, the Company’s proposal is necessary to ensure that SWON can continue to provide safe, adequate and reliable water service to its customers. The Company’s existing water rates were set by the Commission in 2012.

    Proposed Rates:

    Under the proposal, SWON requests an increase of approximately $579,000 (or 33.4% increase to current revenues). The Company states that an increase is needed due to significant investment in water infrastructure, such as main replacement and upgrades to booster stations and pumps, increases in operating expenses and income taxes, and projected declining sales revenue.

    Under the Company’s rate proposal, an average residential customer using 5 ccf’s of water per month (approximately 3,700 gallons) would expect to see an increase in their monthly bills of $12.08, while a low-usage customer using 2 ccf’s of water per month (approximately 1,500 gallons) would expect to see a reduction of their monthly bills of $1.13.
    Additional Components:
    • The Company is proposing to replace the current rate structure with a fixed facility charge and inclining usage blocks. The first rate block would be set at water usage of 0-5 ccf per month and would be charged one rate, while consumption in the next block (i.e. above 5 ccf) would be charged a higher rate. SWON suggests that this rate structure will encourage conservation by customers that use water for discretionary purposes like lawn watering and other outdoor usage.
    • The Company is seeking to implement a system improvement surcharge that would apply to large, long-term or multi-year projects.
    • SWON proposes to change from quarterly to monthly billing.

The full text of the Company’s pre-filed testimony and exhibits, including the Company’s breakdown of expected bill impacts by customer class, may be viewed online at DPS’s website. From the homepage, click on “Search,” and enter the case number (17-W-0528) in in the “Search by Case Number” field.

For major utility filings, the Commission is required to render a decision on the rate request within 11 months. Under New York State Law, the Commission must consider a utility’s proposal and may adopt or reject it in whole or in part, or modify it by adopting changes proposed by participating parties, the general public or the Commission.


The Commission strongly believes that obtaining public input is a critical component of the rate-setting process. Stakeholders such as consumers, government agencies and officials, public interest and environmental groups, and industry representatives are invited to participate in the process, review the proposal, and submit comments. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will preside over the gathering of public comments and all evidence relating to the rate request.

There are several ways to participate in the rate case process, including:
    • Provide Comments: Comments received by the Department will become part of the record considered by the Commission. Comments will be accepted at any point while the proceeding is pending, but are requested by December 1, 2017 to enable Department Staff and Intervenor parties to review public comments before filing their testimony and exhibits.
      • Via Public Statement Hearing: The Commission will hold public statement hearings in SWON’s service territory on November 8, 2017 at the County Office Building in Owego, New York.

      • Via the Department’s Website: Comments may be entered directly into the case via the website. Enter the associated case number (17-W-0528) in the “Search by Case Number” field on the homepage of the website. After clicking to open the case, enter comments in the “Post Comments” section located at the top of the page.

      • Via E-Mail or Mail/Delivery: Submit comments electronically to Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary, at or by mail or delivery to Secretary Burgess at the Department of Public Service, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12223-1350. Comments delivered in these manners should reference “SUEZ Water Owego-Nichols Rate Case” (17-W-0528).

      • Via Toll-Free Opinion Line: Individuals may choose to submit comments by calling the Commission’s toll-free Opinion Line at 1-800-335-2120. This line is set up to receive in-state calls 24-hours a day. Callers should press “2” to leave comments about Case 17-W-0528 “SUEZ Water Owego-Nichols Rate Case”. Comments received via the Opinion Line are not transcribed, but a summary is provided to the Commission for its consideration.
    • Request Party Status: Some individuals or groups participate in rate cases by becoming a party in the case. Generally, parties commit to contribute to the development of a complete record in a proceeding by conducting discovery, submitting testimony, briefs, or other formal written comments, and/or participating in evidentiary hearings, procedural conferences and other formal events conducted in the case. A request for party status can be submitted online through the Commission’s website by searching for the case number and clicking the “Request for Party Status” link at the top of the case page. Alternatively, a request form can be downloaded from the website or obtained by writing to the ALJ, NYS Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223. The requestor will be provisionally given party status, subject to the right of other parties to object and subject to the determination of the ALJ.

    • Join the Service List: Interested persons may monitor a proceeding by subscribing to the service list of that proceeding. Such persons will receive an e-mail with a direct link to the documents issued by the Commission, such as orders, notices, and rulings. Persons unable or unwilling to receive such electronic notification will receive hard copies of Commission-issued documents by regular mail.

      To register online, click on the “Subscribe to Service List” link at the top of the dedicated page for the above case number. A “Service List and Mail Service List Request Form” can be downloaded from the site and the completed form sent by e-mail to Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary at or by mail to: Secretary, Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350.

    • Monitor the Case on the Commission Website: Interested persons who choose not to sign up to receive e-mail notifications can view our website at their convenience to check on the status of a case. All documents filed by parties, correspondence, hearing transcripts, and Commission issued documents in a given case are posted on the website. All comments submitted by the public are posted under the ‘public comments’ tab for the case.

    Please click below for a printable copy of the facts sheet:

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