‘There’s govt rate for water, wastewater’

Posted on Jan 20 2021

Responding to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s claims that there’s no government rate for water and wastewater, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. stated Tuesday that there is such a rate and has been in place since the early 1990s.

Also, CUC denied CHCC’s request that its water and wastewater rates be recalculated as commercial rates, which, in effect, would lower these aspects of CHCC’s utility bills.

In his response to the CHCC letter, CUC legal counsel Jose P. Mafnas Jr. stated that CUC has the authority to establish utility rates as it deems fit—an authority granted it by Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission orders.

Before that, he said, the authority to establish water and sewer rates by a class that included government consumers came after electric rates began organizing, hiring, and measuring by installing meters, rules and regulations, policies and procedures, etc. prior to the establishment of rates. He said the rates were ultimately adopted on Jan. 21, 1993, and the government water rate of $0.0300 per gallon consumed was created on Oct. 1, 1992.

From fiscal years 2006 to 2009, CUC functioned with the Governor’s Emergency Declarations that required CUC to operate under the direction of the executive director since CUC did not have a board of directors, Mafnas said, adding that CUC was able to have all the rights to carry out all required administrative decisions to meet funding contracts and reporting needed at the time.

“A separate CNMI government water and wastewater customer class, hereinafter referred to as government, should be established, which comprises all components of the CNMI government including the central government, line agencies, the college, the public schools, and the autonomous agencies,” said CUC. This was established on May 21, 2010, under a CPUC docket. CUC stated that this customer class should not include non-CNMI government agencies, which fall under the commercial class.

As for water rates, CPUC set a metered government water rate of $54.30 per 1,000 gallons. Additionally, section 24 stated that CPUC’s establishment of a new CNMI government customer class and temporary unmetered monthly rates for residential and commercial water customers should replace any provision in CUC’s administrative regulations.

According to Mafnas, CPUC’s order makes it clear that a government class with a water rate of $54.30 per 1,000 gallons was identified, confirmed, and established.

“In sum, as discussed, CPUC Docket 10-1’s order establishes a legal creation of a government classification for water and wastewater services. Consequently, CUC respectfully denies CHCC’s request that all CHCC’s prospective bills and arrears be calculated using the commercial rate for water and the nonresidential rate for wastewater services,” said Mafnas.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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