The South Carolina Public Service Commission voted Thursday to reject Carolina Water Service’s request to raise rates by 80 percent, according to Dukes Scott, the executive director of the state Office of Regulatory Staff.
He said the commission, a quasi-judicial body whose members are elected by the General Assembly, is expected to issue a written order within 10 days. The water company could petition the commission to reconsider. If nothing is resolved, said Scott, the matter could head to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Carolina Water Service has more than 7,600 water and 11,000 sewer customers in Aiken, Beaufort, Georgetown, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter, Williamsburg and York counties. For customers who use an average of 7,000 gallons of water per month, the increase requested by Carolina Water Service would have caused a $35.94 full-service water bill to increase to $65.30. A full-service sewer bill of $39 was estimated to have grown to $44.32.
The Office of Regulatory staff represents the public interest and acts as a party of record in proceedings before the Public Service Commission.
The rate increase was supposed to help the company upgrade its infrastructure and “enable it to earn a reasonable return on its investment and to attract capital for future improvements,” according to the company’s application, which was submitted by attorney Scott Elliott, a former Public Service Commission member.
In April, the Office of Regulatory Staff did not have a count of the number of affected residents but provided data from 2005 that showed Carolina Water Service had 100 customers in the Hunters Glen subdivision in New Ellenton and 55 customers in Beaufort’s Palmetto Apartments.