Ed Day, Rockland County Executive
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2016
Contact: Jane Lerner, Director of Strategic Communications
Office of the County Executive (845) 638-5645
"Suez, Public Service Commission like fox guarding the hen house," Rockland County Executive Ed Day says
NEW CITY, N.Y. — Rockland County Executive Ed Day today announced that the county has filed a lawsuit against its water company and two state agencies for failing to protect the public from runaway costs for a desalination plant that was never built.
"Rockland residents should not be left holding the bag for an ill-advised and poorly managed project – especially one that no one wanted and one that was ultimately shown to be unnecessary," he said.
Rockland County ratepayers are being asked to pay millions for the failed plans to build a water desalinization plant.
Suez wants Rockland customers to pay the costs over 20 years. The total cost to rate payers would be $110 million.
In court documents filed Friday in State Supreme Court in Albany, the county, with Day as lead plaintiff, is asking for class action status and court intervention.
The legal action focuses on the request Suez, the water company, is making to the Public Service Commission. The lawsuit also names the New York State Department of Public Service and Suez New York.
The water company wants Rockland ratepayers to pay for $39.7 million in costs associated with the phantom plant. Suez is asking the Public Service Commission to approve an 18.7 percent rate hike that would raise residential water bills $100 annually.
"The Public Service Commission was supposed to be the watchdog for the consumer, making sure that the water company acted responsibly," Day said. "Suez did not act responsibly. The costs they are looking to have us pay are not just and reasonable."
The Public Service Commission and the Department of Public Service did not act responsibly either, he said.
"The Public Service commission, which is supposed to be the watchdog for consumers, stood by and did nothing as Suez, our water company, spent $54 million on a plant that was never built," Day said. "In short, Rockland ratepayers are being hosed."
At a hearing asking the PSC for a surcharge, United Water, the precursor to Suez, submitted 9,532 pages of copies of schedules and heavily redacted invoices for legal and other expenses related to the proposed Haverstraw desalination plant.
The Department of Public Service did not verify these expenses. The department merely performed a sample audit of the invoices.
"We don't even know what we are being asked to pay for," Day said.
The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Public Service violated its statutory responsibility by performing the limited or sample audit of the invoices of these expenditures or charges for consultants.
It also alleges that Suez violated its statutory responsibilities for imposing unjust or unreasonable charges on ratepayers for its water service.
"As a result, we maintain that ratepayers should not be responsible for these charges," Day said.
(Pictured left to right, Rockland Assistant County Attorney Tom Simeti and Rockland County Executive Ed Day)