After a year and a half of legal wrangling, the Public Service Commission delivered the ruling that Island stakeholders have been hoping for: the Commissioners denied EU’s application to provide wastewater service to the Islands.
At a very brief Commission Conference the morning of June 7th, the 3-Commissioner panel had an opportunity to open discussion and ask questions about the wastewater docket.
Commissioner LaRosa offered a synthesis of the arguments to deny the application. He opened his comments with a tribute to the uniqueness of our bridgeless barrier islands, and how it was a reminder that cases need to be assessed on an individual basis. He spoke about the lack of need for service, mentioning the absence of any requests for sewer service from individuals or from a developer as well as the overwhelming opposition to the proposal. He also said that in his experience, if a County supports a proposal they are usually well represented in the case before the PSC. He found the absence of strong participation on behalf of Charlotte County noteworthy.
Commissioner Passidomo had a question regarding Charlotte County’s mandatory connection ordinance and whether it could be construed as an argument supporting the need for service. Ryan Sandy [senior attorney] addressed this by explaining that hookup becomes a requirement where sewer is available, which would be after the utility had certification from the PSC. In addition, the preponderance of the “need for service” arguments weighed in favor of denying the application. He also mentioned the conflict with the County’s Comprehensive Plan. Commissioner Passidomo seemed satisfied and requested that this be included in the docket’s Final Order.
Staff suggested that the Commissioners vote on issues #A, 1-9 and 14 first, since following the recommendations provided on these issues would make the remaining issues moot. The Commissioners then voted to accept the staff recommendations including denying the application and closing the docket.
Please remember that a final victory lap is premature. EU has 30 days from the posting of the Final Order (due late June) to file an appeal of this decision. According to our attorney, no new evidence is permitted in an appeal. The appeal would be solely based on legal arguments as to whether the PSC decision remained within the guidelines of what is permitted by law.
The video of the entire Commission Conference can be viewed HERE. You can forward through the agenda items preceding the EU docket (we are last, item #11), but the whole meeting was very brief.