NEWS WORTH NOTING: Issue brief on keeping water affordable: Accounting for the drivers behind increasing rates; Grijalva, Huffman push Interior Dept. on refusal to cooperate with GAO inquiry regarding Bernhardt

CUWA Releases New Issue Brief on Keeping Water Affordable: Accounting for the Drivers Behind Increasing Rates

From the California Urban Water Agencies (CUWA):

Infrastructure is aging, water quality standards are becoming more stringent, and our climate is changing. Despite new technologies and operational efficiencies, the cost of delivering clean, safe water continues to rise.

The California Urban Water Agencies (CUWA) are committed to keeping water services both reliable and cost-effective, recognizing that water bills compete with many other household expenses. However, water is becoming less affordable for communities across the state, and under Prop 218, ratepayer funds cannot be used to support low-income customers.

CUWA’s new issue brief highlights the realities of water supply delivery under new and emerging challenges, urging leaders to consider affordability when introducing new state or local programs that will increase costs. Implementation of new programs and requirements is important yet costly, and the cumulative cost of these efforts can lead to substantial increases in water bills.

Click here for the issue brief from CUWA.

Grijalva, Huffman Push Interior Dept. on Refusal to Cooperate With GAO Inquiry on Water Issue Dating to Acting Secretary Bernhardt’s Previous Tenure

From the Natural Resources Committee:

Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who chairs the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt today calling for immediate cooperation by the Department of the Interior (DOI), which has refused to discuss unusual financial transactions between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Westlands Water District, a former lobbying client of Bernhardt’s; and several other California water districts.

The full letter is available at http://bit.ly/2D6lWUo.

Beginning in 2008, when Bernhardt served as DOI solicitor in the George W. Bush administration, the Bureau of Reclamation began a process to recategorize expenses that should have been borne by individual water districts in a way that required taxpayers to cover certain costs instead. This unusual accounting scheme, which greatly benefited Westlands, cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and was not included in DOI’s budget disclosure documents to Congress.

Grijalva and Huffman requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO) legal opinion on Oct. 24, 2017, to assess whether DOI had broken any laws in carrying out the recategorization program. On Dec. 6, 2017, GAO sought a formal explanation from DOI.

As the lawmakers write today:

This week, we learned that the reason for the delay in issuing the legal opinion was DOI’s refusal to respond to GAO. [. . .] We expect that you will immediately direct your staff to fully comply with the GAO’s request so that Congress can properly assess and address potentially illegal activities that may have occurred at the Department to benefit your former client. We further expect that you will provide us with your explanation for the Department’s unacceptable failure to respond to the GAO’s request.”

Less than a week ago, the New York Times and other outlets reported that Bernhardt continued lobbying for Westlands after vowing not to do so.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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