By BOB MAIER
An issue left undiscussed in the conversation concerning the water which Eklutna Lake provides addresses the authority which the Regulatory Commission of Alaska has over-seeing the fiscal rates charged by the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility.
If those opposing the Hydro Power provided by Eklutna Lake prevail the AWWU Ratepayers will be in for a rate increase shock. The RCA would be replaced by the Anchorage Assembly as the rate setting authority.
A history of the attempts to change the RCA’s relationship with AWWU is as follows.
During the 24th State Legislature, House Bill 108 was one of the Municipality of Anchorage’s legislative priorities. HB 108 was introduced by Rep. Tom Anderson at the behest of then-Mayor Mark Begich. HB 108 would have amended the relevant State Statute that dealt with the fiscal regulation of Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility. removing the RCA allowing the Municipality and the Anchorage Assembly to set rates.
In 2005, HB 108 passed the State House but failed to pass the State Senate.
The reason that Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility is fiscally regulated by the RCA was due to the ‘linkage’ between AWWU and Municipal Light & Power.
With the sale of ML&P to Chugach Electric that “linkage” is now replaced by Municipal Hydro Power, part of the ownership group for the Eklutna Lake hydro project. Alaska Statute AS 42.05.711(b)(2) defines how that Statute now applies to Municipal Hydro Power.
During the RCA hearings on the sale of Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric, the issue of fiscal regulation of the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility ratepayers was discussed. Despite the efforts and arguments of municipal officials before the RCA, the Municipality was unsuccessful in wresting the control of Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility from the RCA.
Lines 14-19 on page 70 of the RCA’s Order approving the sale of ML&P – (Order Number 39 of Docket Number U-19-020) – states:
“Based on the finding that MHP will be competing with other electric operating entities and public utilities under the MEA PPA, we also find that MHP is fully regulated under AS 42.05 pursuant to the AS 42.05.711(b)(2) exception to the exemption from regulation granted by AS 42.05.711(b). With this finding, and contrary to the expectation of the MOA, Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility will remain subject to regulation under AS 42.05 pursuant to AS 42.50.711(b)(2).”
Those words “and contrary to the of expectation of the MOA” defines what is going on here with the Anchorage Assembly’s current approach to the Eklutna Dam issue and Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility’s relationship with the RCA.
We have a recent example of the ratemaking philosophy that the Anchorage Assembly utilizes: Solid Waste Services is owned by the Municipality of Anchorage, which also sets the rates for the Ratepayers. On Oct. 25, 2022, the Anchorage Assembly passed AO2022-91(S-1). This Ordinance authorized rate increases for the years 2023, 2024 – (5%), 2025 – (6%), 2026 – (5%), 2027 – (6.80%) and 2028 – (2.90%).
These are on top of the 2021 and 2022 rate increases.
In 2022, being able to see six years out into the future until 2028 what the fiscal situation of Solid Waste Services will be, along with how the economy will perform in general, is absurd to anyone reading this.
Should the Anchorage Assembly ever succeed in getting control of fiscally regulating Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility, the AWWU ratepayers can only look to the Solid Waste Services ratepayers to see what their future holds.
Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024 the opinion page of the Anchorage Daily News led with a guest editorial penned by the chair and vice-chair of the Anchorage Assembly, advancing the Assembly’s position for the removal of the Eklutna Dam.
Nothing in that piece mentioned the regulatory effects on the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility ratepayers, which are addressed here. Perhaps the ADN should offer another opportunity to Christopher Constant and Meg Zaletel in order to explain to the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility ratepayers why they did not address this in their opinion column.
The elimination of Municipal Hydro Power through the removal of the Eklutna Dam continues an evolving history of the Municipality attempting to wrest the fiscal control of Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility from the RCA. And once again, they are keeping the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility ratepayers in the dark about this aspect of their attempts.
During the entire campaign encouraging voters to approve the sale of Municipal Light & Power, never once did the Municipality or Chugach Electric Association inform the public of the regulatory fiscal effects on the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility ratepayers.
The same is true today for the Anchorage Assembly now encouraging the removal of the Eklutna Dam, which by the way, was approved by unanimous vote.
Residing in Anchorage Bob Maier is both a property taxpayer and utility ratepayer.