McCollum helps stop rate increase

John O'Brien Aug. 29, 2007, 12:55pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum was excited to see the nation's largest publicly traded utility withdraw its request for a rate increase in his state.

Tuesday, McCollum called the decision by Aqua American, Inc., "an example of how companies should spend more time improving the quality of service to their consumers."

It was Aqua Utilities Florida, a subsidiary of Aqua American, that sought in June to increase the rates of more than 110,000 consumers. The company wanted to increase water rates by 80 percent and wastewater rates by 105 percent.

Instantly, McCollum and the state's Office of Public Counsel opposed the increase. During public hearings concerning the matter, McCollum says several consumers complained about the company's service. They said they were afraid to drink their water because it smelled bad.

Also, consumers claimed they could not wash their clothes with the water because it just made them dirtier. Upon learning of these complaints, McCollum filed a motion to intervene, then filed a joint motion to dismiss the rate petition with the OPC.

"I am pleased that this company decided to address the needs of its consumers rather than capitalize on their circumstances," McCollum said.

According to a report by a central Florida TV station, Aqua plans to file a new request. The company says they have spent $30 million on upgrades to the water system during the past four years.

Also, Aqua agreed to pay back the extra money customers paid as a result of a temporary rate increase.

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