News Release from Senator Robert Nichols

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 1, 2011
Contact: Alicia Pierce
(512) 463-0103

Nichols and Watson to lead subcommittee investigating rising water rates

Austin — State senators Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) and Kirk Watson (D-Austin) were recently appointed co-chairs of a newly formed Senate subcommittee to investigate rising water and sewer rates from investor-owned utilities.

"Out-of-control water and sewer rates are issues the state cannot afford to ignore," said Nichols. "This subcommittee will allow legislators to continue work from the legislative session to stop rate abuses by some investor-owned utilities."

During the regular session Nichols filed several bills related to investor-owned water utilities, including a bill that was eventually passed to let landowners out of state-granted monopolies when utilities fail to provide service to an area. Nichols and Watson both asked Gov. Rick Perry to add other issues related to investor-owned utilities to the call for the special session which ended Wednesday.

Watson and Nichols are especially concerned by an announcement of a proposed rate increase for Monarch Utilities customers who already pay significantly more than public utility customers. Monarch is a division of the California-based southwest Water Company and is owned by the Wall Street investment bank, J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

"Texans all across the state don't understand why their water and sewer rates are skyrocketing," Watson said. "Many of them are frustrated by the fact that hard-earned money is going to pad the pocket of Wall Street investment bank executives."

The subcommittee is charged to take testimony and make policy recommendations regarding the rapidly escalating water and sewer rates for Texans living in rural and unincorporated areas of the state and to investigate a proposed quadrupling of wholesale water rates by Monarch.

The subcommittee consists of members from the Senate Business and Commerce Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee. In addition to Nichols and Watson, other members are Sen. Robert Deuell (R-Greenville), Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) and Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston). The committee will hold a hearing on July 28 in Austin.

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