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PSS: CUC should initiate AG request to interpret PL 18-14

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Posted on Sep 01 2014

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If the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. wants an interpretation of a recent law that changed the Public School System’s water and wastewater rates from government to commercial, it should be the one to request the Office of the Attorney General and not PSS.

This was Board of Education chair Herman Guerrero’s answer to CUC after the utilities agency made comments to the Saipan Tribune that it could not move forward without the OAG’s interpretation of Public Law 18-14.

“It is not [PSS’] role and responsibility” to seek an interpretation of the law. He said if CUC has an “issue [with the law] then they should be the ones who initiate the process” to request an interpretation by the AG’s office or through a ruling by the Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission.

If PSS were not to agree with the AG’s opinion, then that is when PSS would request for certification, according to Guerrero.

Essentially, he said, “We are just obeying the law.”

Under Public Law 18-14—enacted last September—CUC is mandated to change public school’s water and wastewater rates from government to commercial.

As reported earlier, this in effect lowered PSS water costs by 98.4 percent and its wastewater costs by 95.6 percent.

Earlier, CUC chair Dave Sablan Jr. cited a need for the OAG’s opinion if PSS is correctly interpreting the law.

“We need to see our attorney general’s opinion that [PSS is] correctly interpreting the law since September of last year or they need to present their case to the CPUC in order to get a ruling,” he said.

In a BOE meeting last week, PSS finance and budget director Derek Sasamoto indicated some of the effects of the law on water usage, as he stressed that there were probable water leaks in Marianas High School, Hopwood Junior High School, and Tanapag Elementary School.

“If it wasn’t for Public Law 18-19, these water charges [from the leaks] would be multiplied almost tenfold, so we would [have] hundreds of thousands [in charges] rather than tens of thousands,” he said.

To date, PSS’ past due balance for CUC sits at $7.8 million, with $6.38 million representing the principal amount for water, electrical, and wastewater services. PSS has $807,558 in late charges, which continues to accrue at 1 percent per month.

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Dennis B. Chan | Reporter

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