‘One Step in the Right Direction’: Lower PAWC Rate Hike Offers Some Relief for Scranton

May 9, 2024

On Tuesday, May 7, 2024, administrative law judges greatly reduced the extreme water rate hikes sought by Pennsylvania-America Water Company (PAWC) in November 2023, while also recommending an even greater increase in wastewater rate hikes. The decision is a partial relief for customers living in Scranton following months of advocacy by City officials, including Scranton’s legal department intervening as a formal party against the rate hikes to advocate for our residents.

“Today’s decision is one step in the right direction for our residents and business owners, who feared the financial impact that these rate hikes would have had on their bottom line,” Mayor Paige G. Cognetti said. “The reduction in proposed water rates by more than half of what PAWC originally sought is a win for our residents, but the decision is not perfect. I want to sincerely thank our law department, Scranton City Council, our state legislative delegation including Representatives Kyle Donahue and Bridget Kosierowski, and Teri Ooms from The Institute for Public Policy for their support of this case and pursuit of fairness for the people of Scranton.”

If approved, the PAWC rate hikes would have increased Scranton residential customers’ bills by almost 25%, an estimate of nearly $18 per month or nearly $220 per year. Scranton residents, nearly 20 percent of whom live below the poverty line and whose median income falls nearly $25,000 below the national average, simply cannot afford the impact of such rate increases.

Today’s decision greatly reduced the extreme water rate hike request that would have increased PAWC’s total annual operating revenue by $199.2 million, or 24.2 percent, down to a recommended $92.6 million, or 11.3 percent, an estimated monthly impact to residents of about $8.40. However, judges also recommended that PAWC increase its wastewater rate higher to 6.6 percent, more than double the original 2.5 percent proposed increase. That recommendation increases wastewater revenue to $11.5 million versus the requested $4.7 million.

Scranton was one of eight formal interveners to provide written testimony, alongside other impacted municipalities, businesses, and watchdog groups, in the proposed water and wastewater rate cases. Two public hearings were held January 30 at the Scranton Cultural Center for residents, legislators, and others to express their opinions on the rate hike. Fifty-two PAWC customers from Scranton were among those who provided public input testimony, providing a loud chorus of voices directly opposed to the rate increase. 

Scranton residents also offered strong testimony against PAWC’s billing cycle errors that resulted in double billing in January 2024. Residents who did not receive their December 2023 bill on time later received multiple bills in January with an automatic late fee. Scranton City Council Member William F. King called the error “a punch in the face” and “an insult” during public testimony.

The administrative law judges’ recommendation to the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) is not yet final. Notably, the judge’s decision states clearly that PAWC did not prove that either rate increase was justified or reasonable. The PUC must accept or deny the recommendation by its public meeting on July 11, 2024. 

The City of Scranton continues to review the order and will continue to advocate on common sense issues facing our residents.

ABOUT THE CITY OF SCRANTON: Incorporated in 1866, the City of Scranton has a population of approximately 76,000 residents and is the sixth-largest municipality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Scranton City Hall is located at 340 N. Washington Ave., Scranton, PA 18503. Residents requiring services should visit www.scrantonpa.gov.

Last modified: May 10, 2024

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