Support a PUC Review of the NTMWD’s “Take or Pay” Contract

0 have signed. Let’s get to 5,000!


2/27/2020

GREAT NEWS!  The Public Utility Commission (PUC) determined that the (NTMWD’s) “rates are adverse to the public interest” and voted to move forward with a Cost of Service Hearing.  This appears to be a brand new process for the PUC so YOU ARE A PART OF HISTORY!  Be sure to thank the mayors and city managers of Garland, Mesquite, Plano, Richardson and Rowlett the next time you see them.  They all have worked very hard to get us to this stage.

Don’t get too excited, though, your water bill is not going to change overnight and the final outcome is still to be determined.  If I properly understood the sequence as discussed during today’s PUC Meeting, Commission staff will prepare a Preliminary Order for review by the Commission that details the points to be considered in the Hearing.  At about the time the Commission approves the Preliminary Order, they also will issue a Remand Order which refers the matter to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) to get the Hearing on their schedule.  As you might guess, all of this will take some time. 

Thank you for taking part in this campaign.  I plan to keep the petition open for now as it provides an effective means for me to keep you up-to-date on the latest developments.  In the meantime, you can reach me directly at Brian4Rowlett@gmail.com.  Below are links to some useful websites:

A Message from Rowlett Mayor, Tammy Dana-Bashian regarding today’s PUC decision.

PUC File Interchange Search Site lists all documents received by the PUC related to this item (PUC Docket #46662).

PUC Webcasts  Select the PUCT Open Meeting for 2/27/2020.  Take or Pay is the first agenda item discussed.

State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) .  This office will hold the Cost of Service Hearing.  The SOAH docket number for this case is 473-17-4964.WS. 

Updates are now at the bottom of the page to avoid confusing new signees

PETITION: 

Citizens of Rowlett, Plano, Mesquite, Richardson and Garland are being overcharged by the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD). All cities are under the Take or Pay contract with the NTMWD, but these cities must pay the NTMWD for water they don’t use.  This means citizens must make up the difference by paying higher water rates or higher taxes.  Under the “Take or Pay” contract each city is charged for water based on the highest historical usage, which for most, if not all, of these cities occurred during the historic drought of the last decade and before required watering restrictions.  The overcharge to these cities according to WFAA is over $275 million each year.  Who benefits from this Take or Pay provision?   The other member and customer cities that contract with NTMWD that end up paying a lower rate for their water as their current water usage is closer to or exceeds their highest historical usage. 

The Public Utility Commission of Texas will be conducting a hearing in the near future on whether or not to allow for a review of the current rate structure set by NTMWD. The City of Rowlett and the “member” cities that are most negatively affected by the take-or-pay rate are asking the PUC to agree to a “rate methodology review”. If the PUC agrees to allow for such review, it would be a big step in the right direction.

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION TO SUPPORT A PUC REVIEW OF THE “TAKE OR PAY” CONTRACT AND IN SUPPORT OF A CONTRACT THAT CHARGES FAIRLY ACROSS THE ENTIRE CUSTOMER BASE ONLY FOR THE AMOUNT OF WATER USED.

Here is a copy of the letter recently sent by Rowlett Mayor Tammy Dana-Bashian to the PUC

Re: Docket No. 46662; SOAH Docket No. 473-17-4964.WS - Petition of the Cities of Garland, Mesquite, Plano and Richardson Appealing the Decision by North Texas Municipal Water District Affecting Wholesale Water Rates. 

Dear Commissioners: 

I am writing to you in my capacity as the Mayor of the City of Rowlett, the largest customer City of the North Texas Municipal Water District (District). On behalf of the City, we express our support for the position asserted by the Cities of Garland, Mesquite, Plano and Richardson, and urge the Commission to initiate the cost-of-service hearing sought by those cities. 

With a current population of over 66,000 residents, Rowlett is a water retailer serving over 20,000 customer accounts. The City of Rowlett has been a wholesale customer of the District for 54 years. Under the compulsory take-or-pay structure, Rowlett has paid nearly $20 million for over 10 billion gallons of water that was not received or used by Rowlett citizens or customers. Based on the current cost structure in place by the District, we will continue to be charged every year for hundreds of millions of gallons of water that we do not use. 

The most common complaint we address with our citizens is the high cost of water compared to surrounding cities, which correlates directly to the take-or-pay cost structure in place by the District for wholesale water. Small communities such as Rowlett have no ability to mitigate the negative impact of the take-or-pay structure due to limited resources. And, we have no choice but to purchase water from the District as we have no feasible alternative. 

The take-or-pay structure is fundamentally flawed; it does not ensure that users pay cost-based rates, as the rates never reset over the term of the contract to more accurately reflect current actual usage of the District’s customer base. And in 2015, the District adopted a permanent water conservation policy that recommended adoption of increasing tiered retail water rates to spur even higher levels of water conservation. As a result, Rowlett achieved significant water conservation, even though the take-or-pay provision financially disincentivizes this approach. Permanent water conservation policies put communities in direct conflict to sell the water needed to support their utility systems due to the take-or-pay provision. Rowlett believes conservation is needed, but we did not sign up for policies adopted unilaterally by the District that change the rules of the game without allowing water providers the ability to reset their projected water use under the new rules. 

Over the years that Rowlett has been a customer city, the District’s budget and rates have grown exponentially with little to no regulatory oversight or checks and balances. No regulatory authority has ever reviewed the District’s annual costs, or its cost structure across the customer base. Basic principles of fairness compel a fair evaluation of the rate structure by the Commission. We urge the Commission to initiate a cost-of-service hearing, which will provide an opportunity for all of the District’s wholesale water customers to participate and for the Commission to set just and reasonable rates for the District. 

Sincerely, Mayor Tammy Dana-Bashian 

City of Rowlett, Texas

 

Best regards,

 

Tammy

_________________________________________________________________

Tammy Dana-Bashian | Mayor
City of Rowlett | 4000 Main St. | Rowlett, TX  75088

o 469.203.9750 | f 972.412.6118 | tdana-bashian@rowlett.com @RowlettMayorTDB

Visit our Citizen Action Center at www.rowlett.com for questions or requests.

 

                                  OUR PURPOSE IS TO SERVE! 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Updates Section

Update for 2/18/2020

We have over 2,800 signatures now.  Please keep sharing the petition.  Thank you to the admin and moderators of the Garland Texas group and the Waterview Neighborhood group for sharing!  You may have noticed that the graphic for the petition has been changed.  I would like to ask everyone to reach out to their friends in Garland, Mesquite, Plano and Richardson to ask for their support for the petition.

If you would like to learn more about arguments and legal issues surrounding this topic, here is a link to a video of the PUC meeting held last May.  The meeting references the finding by an Administrative Law court regarding the issue.  No decision was made during the May 2019 PUC hearing.  We are hoping the PUC will to hold a hearing on 2/27/2020 and order a rate review on the basis that the current rate structure is not in the public interest (a whole lot of legalese going on in this).  If you decide to watch the hearing, be aware that there are 3 parts.  Our agenda item starts towards the end of the first part and continues through a good portion of the third part.

Yard signs are still available.  Please email your name and address to Brian4Rowlett@gmail.com if you would like a sign for your residence or business.  The signs are free though I will accept optional donations of up to $5 per sign to defray the cost.

Update for 2/15/2020

We have over 2,500 signatures now.  Please keep sharing the petition.

Yard signs are here.  Please email your name and address to Brian4Rowlett@gmail.com if you would like a sign for your residence or business.  The signs are free though I will accept optional donations of up to $5 per sign to defray the cost.

I hope to find time today to visit some businesses to see if they will post the flyer.

Update for 2/12/2020

Hi folks.  We have over 2,300 signatures as of this evening.  The rate of increase has slackened, but we are still climbing.  Again, my thanks for your support and encouragement on this important issue.  Please keep sharing the petition.

Yard signs are supposed to be delivered to me on Friday.  If you would like a sign for your residence or business, please email your name and address to my new email address:  Brian4Rowlett@gmail.com.  I will accept optional donations of up to $5 per sign to defray the cost of the signs.  I hope to begin getting flyers out to businesses this weekend.  I’ll see if I can post images of the signs and the flyers to Facebook.

So, what’s next?  We should know by Thursday, February 20, whether we made the PUC agenda for their February 27th meeting.  If we did, a couple of things will happen: 

  1. I will transmit the petition to the PUC Commissioners, our state representatives and to Governor Abbott’s office on or about February 23.
  2. I will post the email addresses of the PUC Commissioners in an update to the petition as well as on Facebook as soon as I know we have made the agenda.  I will include some “copy and paste” language that you may use if you so choose.
  3. I will ask (harass) you to send emails to the Commissioners and our representatives asking them to pursue the rate review.

Update for 2/10/2020

I can’t thank all of you enough for the support and encouragement you have provided on this important issue.  As of this evening, we have 1,940 signatures on the petition so we are keeping our pace of 500 per day.  Please keep sharing the petition with your friends, family, neighbors,  fellow church members and colleagues.  Print the URL and hand it out to those who don’t use Facebook.  All you need is a cell phone with a browser to sign the petition.

Tomorrow I plan to see about getting some yard signs and flyers made up to try to reach folks who don’t use Facebook.  More on that tomorrow.

Also, I am going to try to create a hashtag (#TakeOrPay) to reach out to the Twitter audience and help everyone follow the comments and conversation.  I invite everyone to comment and express their views, but I also ask that we keep the conversation civil. 

A couple of data points I dug up that might be of interest.

  1. With Garland, Plano, Richardson, Mesquite and Rowlett all asking for the PUC review, more than half the population served by the NTMWD are seeking relief from the Take or Pay scheme.
  2. In response to NTMWD’s comment about paying for infrastructure, I did the math.  The $1.6 billion lake being built equates to a cost of $3.93 per person served per month (yes that is 3 dollars and 93 cents) if amortized over 20 years.   (Exactly how long does a lake last?)  That figure drops to $2.62 if you amortize over 30 years. 
  3. I’m not sure where the NTMWD’s $1.6 billion figure comes from.  The application to the Texas Water Development Board lists required revenue for the project at $1.428 billion.
    That’s all for tonight folks.  

UPDATE (2/9/2020)

I want to thank all of you again for your support on this important issue. We presently have more than 1,200 signatures. Please keep sharing the petition with your friends, family, fellow church members and colleagues.
I also want to make you aware of an important component of this issue that did not make it into last night’s interview on NBC 5. Our greatest challenge in correcting the injustice is the requirement for a unanimous vote of the 13 member cities of the NTMWD to make any change. For those fast growing member cities like Frisco, McKinney and Allen, voting for a more equitable distribution of costs means increasing the cost for their constituents, a decision they have not yet and are unlikely to make. While I would like to see the governance modified to give all NTMWD customers a voice and to abandon the requirement for unanimous votes, the most important issue is to get the PUC to review the process by which rates are set. The NTMWD argues that the cities paying for water they are not using are simply paying for infrastructure updates. What we are really doing is paying more than our fair share of those infrastructure updates. We are subsidizing those fast growing cities mentioned above. The NTMWD needs to adopt a more accurate and equitable method for forecasting the regions water needs and allocating the cost to provide for those needs.

UPDATE (2/8/2020):

Thank you to the 807+ supporters who have signed the petition thus far.

We are getting noticed!  I was contacted by Allie Spillyards from NBC 5 in Dallas who told me she saw the petition on Facebook.  The interview will be on channel 5 this evening (Saturday) during the 10 pm newscast. I hope I did the issue justice!

Please continue to share the petition with friends, family and colleagues.   They don’t have to be on Facebook to find/sign the petition.  They can use any web browser and the link (http://chng.it/nfRmwRSV to get to the petition. 

Again, thank you.  Together we can make a difference!

UPDATE (2/7/2020):

I have updated the petition to reflect the latest information available to me:  The request for the rate review did not make it onto the February 14th PUC agenda.  Mayor Dana-Bashian is working to get the item on the February 27th PUC agenda.  I will keep you posted as to the timing of the hearing.

I also have added the Mayor's letter to the PUC regarding the rate review request.