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PUC officially washes hands of Valencia Water

Decision puts disputes over district ownership in hands of civil court

Posted: February 27, 2014 5:32 p.m.
Updated: February 27, 2014 5:32 p.m.

The California Public Utilities Commission sidelined itself Thursday in the dispute over Castaic Lake Water Agency’s takeover of Valencia Water Company, making civil court the venue for further action.

The commission accepted a conclusion made a month ago by Administrative Judge Todd O. Emister, who said that since publicly owned Castaic Lake bought out Valencia Water in a stock purchase, Valencia is now part of a public agency and thus not subject to Public Utilities Commission oversight.

A group of taxpayers and environmentalists had disputed Castaic Lake’s takeover of Valencia Water before the PUC and also challenged its announced rate increase that followed on the heels of the takeover.

“From our customers’ perspective, they shouldn’t see any difference,” Keith Abercrombie, Valencia Water’s general manager, said Thursday.

“We’ll make some changes to our website regarding references to the PUC but, as far as water coming out of the tap, there won’t be any changes,” he said.

Before Castaic Lake took over Valencia Water by buying up its stock, the water retailer, founded in 1965, belonged to Newhall Land Development Inc.

“The company will continue to be regulated by the California Department of Public Health and must meet California’s rigorous water quality standards," Valencia Water officials said in a statement. "VWC will continue to provide water at the lowest rates in the Santa Clarita Valley through one of the best-maintained water delivery systems in the region.”

Company officials are “evaluating their options with respect to the rate changes” the company proposed to the state commission more than a year ago. The rate changes submitted to the PUC followed an exhaustive study of Valencia Water’s future revenue needs.

The company, with about 116,000 customers, has witnessed increased costs for such things as purchased water, power and supplies, according to its news release.

The focus of disputes will now shift to civil court, where the same legal challenges are due to be heard.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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