Jan. 08, 2024

Legislative Update
The latest news from the State Capitol
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PA American Water Gets Audited!

Over the last few weeks, I have been tracking and writing about PA American Water’s attempt to raise rates, helping residents navigate the complaint process, and working on both legislation and with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to protect not just my district but all Pennsylvanians from further rate hikes when we are already being squeezed.

As you know, I serve on the Consumer Protection, Technology, and Utilities Committee. Next week, the committee is holding a hearing on “Chapter 14,” a bill that was originally passed in 2004 and relates to how utility companies can collect debts. I will write more on this law and the hearing that is to come in next week’s e-newsletter. However, right in time for our hearing on billing and collections for public utility companies and leading up to PA American Water’s rate increase hearing, we just received the Management and Operations Audit for Pennsylvania American Water Company (PAWC) issued and conducted by the PUC.

Simply put, the audit identified 31 recommendations for improvements. In addition to recommendations for enhancing operational issues and customer service, the PUC audit report identified $4 million in one-time savings and approximately $3.1 million in annual savings, which if effectively implemented will yield an overall cost savings for ratepayers.

The review examined key functional areas at PAWC, which serves approximately 679,000 water and 97,000 wastewater customers in 37 counties and is the largest regulated water and wastewater service provider in Pennsylvania.

The PUC voted 5-0 at its December public meeting to release the PAWC Audit Report, along with the Implementation Plan that was submitted by PAWC to address recommendations in the report.

The PUC audit report includes recommendations that identify operational and service improvements for PAWC customers, including several significant items:

  •   Reducing unaccounted-for-water (UFW) below the PUC’s 20% threshold and reporting UFW correctly.
  •   Reducing line hits to the company’s underground facilities, including damage by PAWC employees and contractors.
  •   Improving physical security for control rooms and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) control systems.
  •   Improving customer service performance to pre-pandemic levels, at a minimum.
  •   Continuing outreach efforts to payment-troubled customers and leveraging low-income resources to help reduce the level of outstanding customer balances.

Following the audit, PAWC accepted 23 of the recommendations detailed in the PUC audit report and partially agrees with the remaining eight recommendations, indicating that most of the recommendations will be completely implemented by the end of 2024.

What happens next? Well, the PUC states its audit staff will examine PAWC’s implementation efforts. As your legislator, I am not giving up on this issue. The last thing I want to see is additional rate increases, and I will be working with the PUC to ensure that the savings identified and operational changes that were recommended get accounted for in this upcoming August rate case.
Walking in the Shoes of an SCI-Dallas Employee

 While photography was prohibited, this photo is from a recent Times Leader visit.

This past month, I spent an eye-opening two hours in the world of a corrections officer at State Correctional Institute Dallas (SCI Dallas). While most of us enjoy a holiday or weekend off, and businesses wind down for the night, these dedicated officers are on the frontlines of a 24/7 operation.

At SCI Dallas, there are 1,800 inmates, some of whom are Pennsylvania’s most dangerous inmates. From the Veteran Services Unit to the J Block and even the challenging Restrictive Housing Unit (akin to “solitary confinement”), I walked every corner of the institution meeting with officers and support staff. Officers, often working solo or with just one partner, navigate this complex environment with up to 80 inmates roaming freely during “rec time.”

Since diversionary programs work to positively move low-level, non-violent offenders back into the community, our prison populations have become more dangerous. What struck me was the constant activity—the prison remains fully operational, not on lockdown, even during my tour.

Inmates surrounded us from every angle, 360 degrees, going about their daily routines. This experience provided an intimate understanding of what a corrections officer faces in a day’s work.
108th Pennsylvania Farm Show Starts This Weekend!

The Pennsylvania Farm Show – the country’s largest indoor agricultural exposition under one roof – is in full swing in Harrisburg. The show will run through Saturday, Jan. 13.

This year’s theme is “Connecting our Communities,” which aims to bring together those who are fed, nourished and enriched by the agriculture industry to those whose lives and livelihoods depend on it.

As always, the show will feature hundreds of competitions and exhibits, as well as animals and products related to the state’s robust agriculture industry. The annual showcase is a family-friendly event with lots to see and do; and don’t forget to stop by the famous food court for a taste of some Pennsylvania cuisine.

Admission to the show is free, but parking is $15 per vehicle. Shuttle service is provided.

For all the latest news about the Farm Show, follow it on Facebook or visit www.farmshow.pa.gov.
College Students Looking for Work?

PennDOT is looking to hire college students to supplement its permanent workforce from May through August.

The job typically entails seasonal maintenance work and sign upgrade services, maintenance and custodial services at roadside rest facilities, and laboring and flagging duties in maintenance organizations and highway worksites.

To be eligible for consideration, candidates must be 18 years of age, enrolled in college for the next semester, and have a valid Pennsylvania driver's license.

The hourly rate is $16.67. Interested applicants should contact my office before Friday, Jan. 19, and also apply online at www.employment.pa.gov. Non-student positions are also available.