On Thursday, September 8th, the 3-member panel of Commissioners at the PSC rendered their final judgment on the application for wastewater certification from Environmental Utilities, LLC.
The first item for discussion was the request to hear oral arguments. Staff member Ryan Sandy reiterated staff's position, that "the pleadings are sufficient on their face to evaluate and decide" the motion. However, the Commissioners opted to allow each party 7 minutes to speak.
Martin Friedman spoke first on behalf of EU. He mentioned 5 central water and wastewater systems on the Island, asking how can wastewater service be prohibited when they already exist there? “Staff didn’t address that” he said. He then waved a map from the Sewer Master Plan, arguing that the Island appears in red, indicating it belonged in the County’s 5-year improvement plan. Finally, he insisted that the County supplied an appointee who testified that the County was 100% in support of the project.
Linda Cotherman rebutted Mr. Friedman’s arguments. First, she pointed out that the only wastewater facilities on the Islands are package plants, quite different from a central sewer system. She then spoke about the inconsistencies in various maps and locations identified in the Sewer Master Plan, and the fact that the Sewer Master Plan is now being updated.
Brad Kelsky spoke representing PIE. He opened by stating that EU was “re-hashing what has already been decided.” He then pointed out that the County had ample time to participate in the process, yet they did not send an authority with any knowledge of the comprehensive plan. PIE did provide an expert witness who testified that the sewer project was inconsistent with the County’s Comp Plan.
When the time came for the ruling, Commissioner LaRosa indicated that his position was aligned with the PSC staff recommendations. Commissioner Passidomo said that the standards for reconsideration “are whether we made a mistake of fact.” She saw nothing in the motion that met those standards.
Commissioner Clark had the last word before the vote. He started by pointing out that "establishment of the need for service is the biggest driving need" for approval of central sewer certification. "If the County wanted, they could stop issuing septic permits. That would establish a need for service real quick."
At 10:41 AM, the PSC Commissioners denied the Motion for Reconsideration.
While the PSC has made their last ruling, EU still has an opportunity to appeal their decision to the First District Court in Tallahassee. According to Ryan Sandy of the PSC, "The appeal period will be spelled out in the "notice of further proceedings" section at the end of the order on reconsideration, once it issues." The order is scheduled to be released on September 28th.