Athens Review, Athens, Texas

March 7, 2013

Gooden files legislation to fight water monopoly

Special to the Review
The Athens Review

AUSTIN —

AUSTIN-State Representative Lance Gooden has filed two pieces of pro-consumer water utility legislation in an effort to bring relief to water customers across House District 4. The bills, HB 1456 and HB 1457, were filed to address the excessive rate practices of out-of-state investor-owned water utilities (IOUs) like Monarch Water. "Unlike city water utilities and water supply corporations, these IOUs are not accountable to voters living in areas they serve," stated Rep. Gooden.

Under the current law, a municipality can initiate and contest a rate increase proposed by an IOU on behalf of its citizens. However, ratepayers in an unincorporated area are forced to raise their own funds to fight against a well-funded company for the right to affordable drinking water.

"I believe this is wrong. HB 1456 would level the playing field and allow a county to initiate and intervene in a contested rate case on behalf of its citizens living in an unincorporated area," said Gooden. "I really appreciate Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders for joining me, along with the entire Henderson County Commissioner's Court, in supporting this legislation."

Representative Gooden's second bill addresses the legal expenses incurred by an IOU if its ratepayers contest a proposed rate increase. Under the current law, IOUs are allowed to pass legal expenses onto its ratepayers if the IOU wins a rate case.

"This law only serves to discourage the consumer from contesting a rate increase," said Gooden. "With HB 1457, I'm seeking to reduce the amount an IOU can pass along to its ratepayers."

"For too long these monopolistic companies like Monarch have been fleecing citizens across Texas with exorbitant rates while consistently applying for rate increases," Gooden continued. "These practices are currently allowed under Texas law, and the IOUs would, obviously, like to keep the laws the way they are."

Rep. Gooden acknowledged his legislation will face tough opposition in the House by a well-funded lobby bankrolled by companies like Monarch Water.