Liberty Utilities rate case to proceed after commission overturns judge's ruling

 

The Liberty Utilities rate case will proceed after the three-member Public Utility Commission overturned a judge’s motion to dismiss.

Liberty spokeswoman Jennifer Cross said the decision, made this month, granted the appeal of Liberty Woodmark and Liberty Tall Timbers, allowing the rate case to proceed with a proposed consolidated rate tariff for both utilities.

In making the decision, the commission also ordered that Liberty Utilities (Sub) Corp., the parent company of Liberty Tall Timbers and Liberty Woodmark, be added to the rate case as an applicant.

Ms. Cross said the company is in the process of amending the rate application to conform to the order.

Michele Gregg, director of external relations at the Office of Public Utility Counsel, which represents Liberty Utilities customers in Smith County, said the parties to the case planned to meet as early as next week to try to come up with a new procedural schedule after the last one was abated.

Once the parties come to an agreement about a schedule, they will file that with a judge at the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

In addition, the effective date for Liberty Utilities’ proposed rates will be pushed back even further, Ms. Gregg said.

The commission already suspended the Feb. 1 effective date for customers outside the city limits, meaning those customers have not yet seen a rate change.

In January, the Tyler City Council unanimously approved suspending the proposed rate increase for customers inside the city limits.

The 90-day suspension would allow the city’s attorneys and rate consultants the time to continue reviewing the utility company’s rate application.

City of Tyler Development Director Greg Morgan said the city would still have to act on or before May 1.

Ms. Gregg said the commissioners were clear during the meeting that they were not ruling on the proposed rates, and would address those in the future.

The road to this point began in September, when the utility company notified its Tall Timbers and Woodmark Sewer customers about a proposed rate change for wastewater service.

The proposed rate increase, which would more than triple some customers’ monthly bills, was met with widespread opposition.

Customers submitted more than 1,000 protests to the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

The number of protests triggered an automatic hearing at the state level. In December, the Public Utility Commission referred the case to the State Office of Administrative Hearings to address factual disputes in the case.

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City Editor

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