October 24, 2014

Pay-as-you-go pipe replacement program gets first-round Senate OK (AuDIO)

The hottest acronym in the legislature this year is I-S-R-S….It’s pronounced “Iss-russ.”   And the state senate has tentatively blessed it.   Here’s what “Iss-russ” is.

Hundreds of miles of old, brittle, rusty, leaking cast iron pipe is beneath our feet, carrying water to and sewage from our homes and businesses.   Utilities are looking for ways to get the money to replace those pipes. The work is going to take millions of dollars.

Backers of the ISRS legislation say regulated utilities could ask the Public Service Commission to approve some whopping rate increases to pay those costs  but the consumer backlash could be fierce.   Better to pass a law, they argue, that lets  the water companies increase rates by small amounts each year. Those small amounts are “Iss-russ”— Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharges.  

Savannah Senator Brad Lager says ISRS takes the pain out of rate increases by increasing rates by small amounts for four or five years instead of getting double-digit rate increases every four or five years . St. Louis County has been using ISRS for about ten years.  Lager says there never has been a complaint  when the water company asks for a little rate hike to replace old pipes. The PSC reviews the little hikes whenever the company files a regular rate increase request and can make adjustments in the company’s rates at that point.

The bill needs another favorable vote to reach the House.

AUDIO: Senate debate 50:10