Valencia Water Company (VWC) may be California’s only water provider that is neither public, nor mutual, nor regulated as a private entity by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
“Every private water company has the authority to sell water in the state of California,” said Ed Casey, partner in Alston & Bird’s Environment, Land Use & Natural Resources Group and attorney for VWC. “Simply because it’s not subject to the CPUC’s regulatory requirements doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the legal right to sell water and if somebody wants to show me a legal argument to the contrary I would like to hear it.”
Earlier this year VWC conducted a ratemaking proceeding in the style of a Proposition 218 governmental process but continued to assert its private status.
“If there is no alter ego relationship, the identity of the entity that owns Valencia Water Company is irrelevant, which means that VWC is not a public agency within the meaning of either Prop 218 or the Public Records Act,” said Casey. “Valencia Water Company is subject to the same rules any private entity would be subject to, in that a private corporation must turn over records for reasons such as litigation or subpoenas, but there is no other so-called public disclosure requirement. We comply with the self-same procedures. If some people like to have more, that’s their policy position. But at this point in time there is no legal requirement to do so.”
VWC voluntarily conducted a public meeting on the ratemaking with opportunities for public comment.
“We decided to follow the CPUC process because it was a process and we had been under that process for years and we thought it better to continue that process until some entity, whether it’s the court or the CPUC, told us that it did not have jurisdiction over us,” Casey continued. “I don’t think it’s fair … to criticize Valencia for what it did, when we tried to promote transparency and receive direct customer input to the board.”