ACQUISITIONS OF VIABLE WATER AND WASTEWATER SYSTEM—STATEMENT OF POLICY


§ 69.721. Water and wastewater system acquisitions.

 (a)  General. The Commission believes that further consolidation of water and wastewater systems within this Commonwealth may, with appropriate management, result in greater environmental and economic benefits to customers. The regionalization of water and wastewater systems through mergers and acquisitions will allow the water industry to institute better management practices and achieve greater economies of scale. To further this goal, the Commission sets forth the guidance in this section regarding the acquisition of water and wastewater systems. Guidance specifically applicable to the acquisition of nonviable systems is set forth in §  69.711 (relating to acquisition incentives).

 (b)  Inclusion of acquisition assets in rate base. After the approval of an acquisition, as evidenced by the receipt of a certificate of public convenience, an acquiring utility may request the inclusion of the value of the used and useful assets of the acquired system in its rate base. A request will be considered during the acquiring utility’s next filed rate case proceeding. See 66 Pa.C.S. §  1311(a) (relating to valuation of and return on the property of a public utility).

 (c)  Method of valuation of acquisition assets. The assets of the acquired system should be booked at the original cost of the acquired system when first devoted to the public service less the applicable accrued depreciation and related contributions. See 66 Pa.C.S. §  1311(b).

 (d)  Determining original cost of acquisition assets. An acquiring utility may use various methods to support its valuation of the original cost of the used and useful assets of the acquired water or wastewater system. For example, an acquiring utility may elect to rely in whole or in part upon the original cost records of the seller or the Commission in determining the original cost of the used and useful assets of the acquired system that are to be included in its rate base.

 (e)  Preparation of an original cost of plant-in-service valuation. The Commission will not require an acquiring utility to submit a full original cost plant-in-service study in order to determine the value of the assets of the acquired system. An acquiring utility, upon its own election, may file an original cost study with the Commission to support its valuation of the assets of the acquired water and wastewater system proposed to be included in its rate base. A full original cost plant-in-service study is one method of determining the valuation costs of the property of a public utility. It requires the acquiring utility to develop realistic plant balances and accumulates the records and accounting details that support those balances. Disputes regarding the acquiring utility’s original cost valuation of the acquired assets will be resolved in the context of a rate proceeding in which all interested parties will have an opportunity to be heard.

   (1)  Contents of an original cost plant-in-service study. The acquiring utility is obligated to exercise due diligence and make reasonable attempts to obtain, from the seller, documents related to original cost. In particular, as part of its due diligence, the acquiring utility should request from the seller, for purposes of determining the original cost plant-in-service valuation, the original cost of the assets being acquired and records relating to contributions in aid of construction (CIAC), such as the following:

     (i)   Accounting records and other related documentation and agreements of donations or contributions, services, or property from states, municipalities or other government agencies, individuals, and others for construction purposes.

     (ii)   Records of unrefunded balances in customer advances for construction (CAC).

     (iii)   Records of customer tap-in fees and hook-up fees.

     (iv)   Prior original cost studies.

     (v)   Records of local, State and Federal grants used for construction of utility plant.

     (vi)   Relevant PennVEST or Department of Environmental Protection records.

     (vii)   Any Commission records.

     (viii)   Summary of the depreciation schedules from all filed Federal tax returns.

     (ix)   Other accounting records supporting plant-in-service.

   (2)  Failure of seller to provide cost-related documents. The failure of a seller to provide cost-related documents, after reasonable attempts to obtain the data, will not be a basis for the Commission’s denial of the inclusion of the value of the acquired system’s assets in its proposed rate base. Because the documents obtained from the seller may be incomplete and may result in an inaccurate valuation, the acquiring utility will not be bound by the incomplete documents from the seller in the preparation of its original cost plant-in-service valuation.

   (3)  Procedure for booking CIAC. The acquiring utility, at a minimum, should book as CIAC contributions that were properly recorded on the books of the system being acquired. If evidence supports other CIAC that was not booked by the seller, the acquiring utility should make a documented effort to determine the actual CIAC and record the contributions for ratemaking purposes, such as lot sale agreements or capitalization versus expenses of plant-in-service on tax returns.

   (4)  Plant retired/not booked/not used and useful. The acquiring utility should identify all plant retirements and plant no longer used and useful and complete the appropriate accounting entries.

   (5)  Reconciliation with commission records. In the case of an acquisition of a water or wastewater system that is regulated by the Commission, the acquiring utility should reconcile and explain any discrepancies between the acquiring utility’s original cost plant-in-service valuation and the Commission’s records, to the extent reasonably known and available to the acquiring utility, at the same time the supporting documentation for the study is filed.

 (f)  Time to submit original cost valuation. When the acquiring utility elects to request inclusion of its acquisition in its rate base, it should submit a copy of its newly prepared original cost plant-in-service valuation of the acquired system or a statement of reliance of the existing records of the Commission or the seller to the Commission’s Secretary’s Bureau, the Bureau of Audits, the Bureau of Fixed Utility Services, the Office of Trial Staff, the Office of Consumer Advocate and the Office of Small Business Advocate at least 4 months prior to the date that the acquiring utility plans to make its next rate case filing with the Commission.

   (1)  The Commission staff may conduct an audit of the original cost valuation, but if no staff audit is completed and released at public meeting before the date of the rate case filing, the Commission’s determination of the original cost valuation in the rate case will be deemed final action on the original cost valuation, absent subsequently discovered fraud or misrepresentation. When staff completes an audit before the rate case is filed, the results of the audit will not be binding on any party, but rather the audit report will be made available to the public and the report can be presented in the acquiring utility’s next rate case, subject to applicable evidentiary rules.

   (2)  When the acquiring utility makes a rate case filing sooner than the 4-month window, the acquiring utility should not include any revenues or expenses related to the acquisition, including the requested acquisition adjustment in its proposed rate base unless it includes the original cost valuation with the rate filing and one of the following circumstances applies:

     (i)   A compelling reason exists for requesting the acquisition in the current rate filing.

     (ii)   The acquisition was requested or otherwise directed by the Commission.

     (iii)   No statutory party objects to the inclusion of the acquisition to the proposed rate base of the acquiring utility.

 (g)  Acquisition incentives. In its efforts to foster the acquisitions of smaller, less viable water and wastewater systems by larger more viable systems, the Commission, under 66 Pa.C.S. §  523 (relating to performance factor consideration), has broad latitude to allow the acquiring utility to request a rate of return premium in a subsequent rate case. The allowance of a rate of return premium, as an acquisition incentive for an acquisition that falls outside of the parameters of 66 Pa.C.S. §  1327 (relating to acquisition of water and sewer utilities), may be requested by those utilities that have a demonstrated track record of acquiring and improving the service provided to the customers of smaller and less viable water systems. The allowance of additional rate of return basis points may be awarded based on sufficient supporting data submitted by the utility within its rate case filing.

Source

   The provisions of this §  69.721 adopted September 29, 2006, effective September 30, 2006, 36 Pa.B. 5991.



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