PSC Chairman Albert recuses himself from part of American Water case

EP-305299954Photograph: www.wvgazettemail.com

Public Service Commission Chairman Mike Albert has recused himself from one of the three parts of West Virginia American Water’s ongoing rate case.
In a PSC order issued Wednesday afternoon, the commission announced that Albert would not be taking part in American Water’s depreciation case, in which commissioners will decide how the water utility will recover the cost of capital improvements from customers.

While Albert will not take part in the evidentiary hearing regarding the depreciation case, he will still be involved in the company’s water and sewer rate requests, in which the company has asked for revenue increases of 28 and 22 percent. Those increases would collect a combined $35.5 million annually from customers if approved by the commission.

Albert’s decision to recuse himself from the depreciation case comes after evidence was filed that linked his previous work as an attorney for American Water to the current proceedings.

The evidence in question — a 1999 settlement and PSC order — showed that American Water hadn’t followed agreed-upon accounting practices, which banned the company from allocating millions of dollars to depreciation accounts for the removal of water mains and meters.

Those actions were admittedly denied under the 1999 settlement that was negotiated for the company by Albert, who was then an attorney with the Charleston law firm Jackson Kelly.

“Commissioners have a statutory obligation with respect to processing cases and should not routinely recuse themselves from a case,” Wednesday’s order stated. “By the same token, sometimes recusal is appropriate.”

The recusal from the depreciation case makes it the second time Albert has removed himself from an American Water case. In August 2014, Albert recused himself from an investigation looking into American Water’s roll in the 2014 contamination of 300,000 peoples’ drinking water.
In that case, Albert had no direct connection to the investigation, but said the PSC was looking into a period of time when he represented the water company in other matters.
The current rate cases, including the depreciation component, are set for a public hearing in Charleston on Oct. 26, and the PSC will hold the evidentiary hearing on Oct. 27.

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