On February 12, 2019, Representative Tina Davis introduced a bill proposing to establish a new regulatory commission with oversight over municipal water and wastewater authorities.   H.B. 494 would establish a Municipal Water and Wastewater Authority Oversight Commission (“Authority Commission”).  Representative Davis previously sponsored H.B. 798, which would have amended the Public Utility Code to subject municipal water and wastewater authorities to regulation by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”).  Introduced in 2017, H.B. 798 failed to move out of the Consumer Affairs Committee.
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On October 11, 2018, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (“Court”) vacated the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) Order approving the acquisition of the wastewater system assets of New Garden Township and New Garden Sewer Authority (collectively “New Garden”) by Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc. (“Aqua”).[1]  Aqua’s Application sought PUC approval of the acquisition, a Certificate of Public Convenience to furnish wastewater service to customers in and around the service territory of New Garden, and, approval of a rate base predicated on the acquisition price, rate commitments and transaction costs.[2]
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Sewage backups tend to make relationships between landowners and their municipal sewer authorities rather, well, messy.  When property is impacted by a sewer authority’s negligence, landowners would typically find a remedy in a trespass action.  However, a recent decision by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania holds that repeated sewage backups may cause a de facto taking under the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain code, requiring compensation to the landowner.  This is yet another area of concern and possible liability for municipal authority operators.
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