2022 Year in Review
This is what a legislature looks like when it runs in place.
2016 Legislature stacks the deck in favor of Big Water.
2022 Legislature fails to fix it.
🌧 January 2022 — Frustration Reigns
Deep pockets drown House Bill 527.
Do lobbyists rule Harrisburg?
House Bill 527 related to requiring Public Meetings Prior to the Sale or Lease of a Municipal Asset made it out of committee and was brought to the house floor. Representatives John Lawrence, Christina Sappey, and Leanne Krueger attempt to amend the bill. John Lawrence’s amendment makes it through, which states that 100% of board approval would be needed to sell a municipal authority like CWA. But nothing ever happened with this bill because house leadership never brought it up for a final vote. In response to this legislative effort, Big Water hired retired PA Senator Scarnati’s lobbying firm. The bill was never passed in the House and was never introduced in the senate. Who in the House and Senate blocked this bill from consideration?
Clear Support Overseas
The SAVE CWA effort goes international with major press coverage by Nina Lakhani of The Guardian and her article, Corporate Vultures: how Americans fearing higher water bills are fighting takeovers
Nina tells us that only a third of Pennsylvanians are served by for-profit water companies (that is triple the national average). But they have strong ties to Harrisburg to allow their growth (see above) and their bills are on average 84% more than those with public providers.
A wolf in Wolf’s clothing
Emails obtained by CWA through right-to-know requests reveal a Wolf administration policy to force impoverished communities to sell their public assets. All this will do is transfer the financial burden from a failed government to the citizens. It’s a transfer, not a solution.
Email exchanges with the Governor’s Office make it apparent that the Commonwealth has been implementing a behind closed doors “transfer of financial burden program” to privatize publicly-controlled water and sewer systems of distressed communities for the benefit of investor-owned utilities in order to distract from the Commonwealth’s abject failures to help Act 47 communities.
Is this the reason that DCED (later with Aqua’s assistance in the form of a lawsuit) derailed the settlement discussions between CWA and the City of Chester in 2019 and why Aqua sued both CWA and the City? The lawsuit is still pending and has been used to block CWA and the City from engaging in direct settlement negotiations.
👑 February 2022 – It’s good to be the king: History of the Water World Part 1
On a publicly recorded earnings call, Chris Franklin “predicts” the purge of the Delco CWA Board members that rejected the Aqua hostile takeover over. Without public explanation or ever speaking with them, the Delaware County Council did not re-appoint those CWA board members in November 2022, granting Franklin’s wish.
Money. Money. Money. It's a rich man's world.
CWA volunteers and employees brought the “Free the Aston 600” message directly to the Aston customers who are prisoners of Aqua’s rates because their water system was sold to Aqua in 1995 as part of the Media Borough system sale. All residents in Aston Township use and drink CWA water. However, 7% of households (672 residents and businesses) pay over two times more for water than the other 93% of households.
Aqua buys the water from CWA (at the low bulk rate) for the “Aston 600” and turns around and sells it at their prices. Is it true that Aqua charges 10x what they pay for that water from CWA? Why does the PUC allow this?
CWA cannot compete for the Aston 600’s business because PA grants monopoly status to Big Water. CWA asked legislators to change the law to allow it to compete with Aqua, but no legislative action has been taken.
Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.
Through Right-to-Know (RTK) requests, CWA obtains a template of the Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) that the DCED, Governor’s Office, Chester Receiver, City of Chester and AQUA have been secretly negotiating to sell CWA since mid-2020.
In this APA, despite Aqua’s constant messaging to the contrary, there is:
• NO mention of rate freezes or rate stability funds
• NO mention of protecting the Octoraro Reservoir
At the DCED Budget Meeting in Harrisburg, Rep. John Lawrence (PA-13) confronts newly-appointed Acting DCED secretary, Neil Weaver. Lawrence exposes Weaver’s memo that lays out the plan to sell Chester Water Authority using the declaration of fiscal emergency in Chester as the pretext to do so. Weaver, visibly nervous, deflects questions. Serial Prevarications?
😳 March 2022 – Beware of the Tides of March.
Julius Caesar didn’t heed the warning and look what happened to him.
The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
Dedicated CWA supporters submit an OpEd that is featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer about Wolf’s “transfer of financial burden program” in an article titled, Big water companies are gobbling up public water systems: This means a rate hike for PA. residents. Here’s why you should be concerned.
“This sale is being promoted by public officials, including Governor Wolf, as a bailout for the bankrupt city of Chester. While the purchase price is a huge temptation, this is simply another case of ignoring the real cost. The city of Chester would benefit, but at the expense of users. It is estimated that a large majority of Chester households will have water bills greater than the income threshold the EPA has set for water affordability. The Chester Water Authority Board unanimously opposes this sale because they know that the hidden costs of the deal will mean huge rate hikes.”
In a devastating loss to the CWA board, Vietnam War veteran and Board Vice Chairman Paul Andriole of Chester County passes away. He crossed members of his own political party to fight the hostile takeover to protect the ratepayers and his community from water profiteers.
Let’s Get Virtual
Chester Water Authority becomes the first public water utility to advertise in the Metaverse. The CWA-sponsored car (advertising sponsorship provided by anonymous donor) was the first place finisher in the Daytona 400 in Sunday Night NASCAR e-racing, and made it to the playoffs later in the season, finishing 2nd out of 93 drivers.
🧑⚖️ April 2022 – CWA will get its day in court.
Or will they? Will the Wolf Administration-appointed Receiver be successful in stopping the PA Supreme Court from hearing the case? (see November)
Our prayers are answered?
The PA Supreme Court interrupts its busy schedule and announces that it will hear CWA’s petition appeal. In summary, the main issue before the PA Supreme Court is:
Does the City of Chester have the right to seize the assets of Chester Water Authority…and sell those assets to address its own unrelated financial distress while overriding the representational rights granted to Chester and Delaware Counties by a 2012 law (Act 73). This law was unanimously adopted by the PA legislature (which included then-Representative Thaddeus Kirkland)?
Are Big Water’s lobbyists blocking the legislature from clarifying this issue? Why else would the legislature fail to clarify this issue?
If you are scared of snakes, don’t read this.
Through CWA’s ongoing right-to-know requests, an email from April of 2020 is discovered from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). In the email, one of Aqua’s lobbyists reaches out on behalf of Aqua’s CEO to set up a mano a mano with the governor. We don’t know if the meeting took place. Why is the Governor taking calls from Big Water instead of talking to the ratepayers who don’t want their water system sold? Why do lobbyists get a direct line instead of the people? CWA keeps turning over rocks and snakes keep wriggling out.
Privatization of Everything
Donald Cohen, founder and executive director of the nationally-known nonprofit research and policy organization, In The Public Interest, and author of The Privatization of Everything, warns against the perils of water privatization at two in-person events with CWA ratepayers and concerned citizens. As a veteran of defending against these types of attacks, Cohen details the tactics of Big Water including their intell operations and data collection.
The Privatization of Everything connects the dots of Big Water’s influence on government decision makers. The book raises larger questions about who controls the public things we all rely on, exposing the hidden crisis of privatization that has been slowly unfolding over the last fifty years and giving us a road map for defending against these attacks and taking back what is ours.
In honor of Mother’s Day, we decide to listen to Mom’s advice and since we have nothing nice to say in May about Big Water, we don’t say anything at all.
💪 June 2022—Alive, well, and under constant attack
Celebrating the 5-year anniversary of fighting Big Water.
Activists and Cheerleaders
On June 4, the second annual Public Water Independence Day was held in celebration of the five-year anniversary of the CWA Board standing up to Aqua and unanimously rejecting their offer to buy CWA. The event bused ratepayers from Chester City and Delaware County to see where their water is produced at the Octoraro reservoir and Nottingham treatment plant. Hundreds of attendees enjoyed free food and giveaways, free boat and kayak rentals, plus tours of the dam and treatment plant. 11 elected officials/candidates came as speakers, attendees or sent a message of support.
Like Talking to a Brick Wall
CWA announces that on September 22, 2021, CWA met with the Receiver regarding a path forward to resolving disputes between CWA and the City of Chester. A letter summarizing CWA’s discussion with the Receiver was sent to the Receiver and Chester City’s Mayor Kirkland on October 11, 2021. A framework for settlement and ideas to generate revenue for the City of Chester were proposed. What has been the response from the Receiver or the Mayor? Absolutely nothing. What did the CWA Settlement Offer Provide?
Meets the Receiver’s Stated Objectives While Protecting the Ratepayers
A Fair Sum to Resolve this Matter and in Light of the System’s Value
A Significant Upfront Payment
Protection of the Ratepayers
Offer May be Further Developed
A Map of Additional Revenue Sources for the City
The Receiver denied any revenue-generating ideas that CWA had as “unworkable.” Does anyone know what the Receiver’s revenue generating ideas are, besides selling CWA?
🇺🇸 July 2022—Water Independence Day
Serenity on the Water
On July 16, Chester Water Authority and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month with a kayak sunset paddle on the Octoraro Reservoir. From 8PM to 10PM, kayakers took to the water for a sunset paddle, enjoying the natural beauty of this public treasure. This was the first time in the Octoraro Reservoir’s history that kayakers had this nighttime opportunity.
👨💼 August 2022—Revenge of Big Water Lobbyists
Backdoor Privatization Bill
PMAA (Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association) testifies at the informational meeting about Senate Bill 597. This Big Water-sponsored bill puts additional regulatory burden without funding on municipal water and sewer systems. This bill (and similar ones like it in other states) are literally mentioned in for-profit utility companies’ earning calls as a method to force municipal authorities to privatize.
What do Vladimir Putin and Chris Franklin have in common?
Both are causing inflation. An article published by In The Public Interest focuses on the inflation no one is talking about, caused by Big Water and privatization.
😕 September 2022—Blindsided is an understatement.
Friend or Foe
Delaware County Council (none of whom live in the CWA service area) joins Aqua at the PA Supreme Court in opposing CWA’s attempt to protect the ratepayers, after three years of not participating in the litigation. The Council did not discuss this strategy publicly or put it to a vote. Therefore, who made the decision to file this brief at the PA Supreme Court? In 2019, the prior bi-partisan Delaware County Council filed a pleading stating that they did not oppose CWA’s strategy to protect ratepayers by placing certain assets into an environmental trust that cannot be sold. Why reverse course?
The call is coming from inside the house
A Delaware County Council member tells a reporter, “I’ll always take Chris Franklin’s calls.” ABOUT WHAT?
Philadelphia Inquirer calls to repeal Act 12
After several years of the Inquirer reporting on privatization in PA, the editorial board finally decides where they stand on this issue, and it’s with the ratepayers.
What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.
CWA retains well-known Philadelphia civil rights attorney Riley Ross and submits a letter to the Environmental Justice Advisory Board of the DEP requesting that they hold state-wide public hearings on water affordability, making the case for water justice because Big Water privatization deals disproportionately affect the lives of Black people and People of Color. In November, EJAB replies that they are interested and let’s keep talking.
⚾️ October 2022—Ratepayers 1, Big Water 0
Chesco Takes the Field
The Chester County Commissioners reaffirm their commitment to the ratepayers and re-appoint Leonard Rivera and Noel Brandon to the CWA board. They also appoint their deputy county administrator, Erik Walschburger, to fill Paul Andriole’s seat that was vacated when he sadly passed away early this year.
What’s the Game Plan?
CWA continues to try to get the Receiver to tell them what their plans are with no success; offers of help are spurned. We later find out why—the sneaky bankruptcy filing a few weeks later.
PA Supreme Court sets an oral argument date that later gets derailed by the Chester Receiver’s bankruptcy filing.
😡 November 2022 – Robbery in Progress
Reverse Robin Hood
The Receiver launches a carefully orchestrated sneak attack on CWA ratepayers during Election Week / Veterans Day week.
On election day, November 8, the DCED-Appointed Receiver for the City of Chester submits an Amended Recovery Plan for the City, asking the Commonwealth Court to give him sole control over “City Authorities,” with carefully hidden weasel words that would later allow him to argue that he has sole control over CWA. CWA’s legal team pushes back. CWA’s solicitor accuses the Receiver of using Robber’s Logic in pursuing control over CWA: You have money, I need money, I’m taking your money.
The next day on November 9, the Receiver meets with City retirees (city workers, police and fire retirees). The receiver continues to treat them as hostages and informs them that their pensions are in dire trouble and they will potentially lose some or all of the pension payments and medical benefits that they were legally promised and have come to rely upon in retirement. The Receiver never mentions to the retiree hostages at the meeting that he is filing for bankruptcy the very next day. Other than scaring the retiree hostages, what was the purpose of that meeting?
On November 10, the Receiver files for bankruptcy in federal court. His plan for the week becomes clear. He uses the bankruptcy filing to argue that the PA Supreme Court case scheduled for oral arguments on November 30 is stayed. However he continues to try to take over “City Authorities” by asking the bankruptcy court to lift the stay to allow his Amended Recovery Plan filed two days prior in Commonwealth Court to proceed.
A rare and historic achievement
The Delco members of the CWA board who lead the board since 2012 and spearheaded the CWA effort that saved ratepayers $276,377,608 were unfortunately replaced by Delaware County Council at their public meeting on November 16. All three Delco CWA board members had asked Delaware County Council to allow them to continue their service and to fight alongside the ratepayers and employees to SAVE CWA, but they won’t have the opportunity to finish the fight from their board seats. Even though they were replaced, their legacy and historic savings to ratepayers can never be forgotten. Ratepayers 1 (Chester County), Big Water 1 (Delaware County).
Thank you, CWA Board Legends
November 17 was the final meeting of the members of the legendary CWA Board who saved the ratepayers $276,337,608 by rejecting the Aqua takeover in 2017. Can you name any other government body in Pennsylvania that saved its constituents this much money by doing the right thing?
Thank you, Chester City
The City of Chester decides to stay the course and re-appoints Dr. Patricia Lewis-West, John Shelton, Sr., and Livia Smith to the CWA board. Ratepayers 2 (Chester City/Chester County), Big Water 1 (Delaware County).
Chesco to the rescue.
Right after Chester County joined CWA to file a motion in federal bankruptcy court regarding the Commonwealth Court Amended Recovery Plan, the Receiver agreed to clarify the weasel words that “Authorities” in his Plan does not include CWA!
With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Aqua coordinates with township officials in New Garden to hijack a ratepayer-organized public meeting. The New Garden sewer deal was the first Act 12 transaction in the state, and ratepayers are now seeing the full consequences of that sale.
Residents are in rate shock as their bills double and triple under Aqua
None of the promises Aqua made to them for rate freezes and stabilization are realized
Ratepayers are furious and want to buy the system back
🎅 December 2022—Santa, all I want for Christmas is rate increases in 2023. Love, Chester Residents…Nope.
Rates Will Double and Triple
The Receiver’s planned sale of 3 Authorities will cause rates to at least double.
Is the Receiver inspired by Basketball Star Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks? Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks had a historic 60 point masterpiece triple double on Tuesday night. The Receiver is trying to get his own historic triple double—doubling what the ratepayers pay for their drinking water, wastewater, and storm water treatment by trying to force the sale of Chester Water Authority, DELCORA, and the Chester Stormwater Authority to a for-profit company.
Selling DELCORA will affect everyone in Delaware County (doubling sewer rates) – a single double
Western Delco will get a double double if DELCORA and CWA are sold (doubling water and sewer rates)
The Receiver will be putting the most burden on City residents as the City of Chester will get the unique pleasure of a triple double if DELCORA, CWA and the Chester Stormwater Authority are sold (doubling water, sewer and stormwater rates). They will have to shoulder the cost of a failed government by paying sky high utility rates forever.
New CWA Board Leadership Takes Up the SAVE CWA Mantle
Noel Brandon, Chairperson (Chester County)
“Our job [on the board] is to protect the ratepayers,” he tells Delaware Valley Journal
Dr. Patricia Lewis-West, Vice Chairperson (City of Chester)
Lenny Rivera, Secretary (Chester County)
Livia Smith, Treasurer (City of Chester)
Philadelphia Inquirer says selling CWA would be a ‘Giant Mistake.’
“Despite Chester’s pressing financial troubles, selling the water utility would be a giant mistake. Recent sales in other towns have led to massive increases in consumer water bills of 50% or more. With a poverty rate of 36%, many Chester residents would struggle to pay higher water bills. They are not alone: The sale of the Chester Water Authority would impact 200,000 people across 37 municipalities in Delaware and Chester Counties. This is just one example of how Chester’s financial troubles can directly affect the region.”
Happy New Year for Canadian Pensioners
Aqua’s higher rates are funding pension recipients in Canada. Aqua’s second largest shareholder, CPP Investments (Canada Pension Plan), has a 10.1% ten year annualized rate of return, benefitting from Aqua’s huge rate increases allowed by the PA Governor, the PA legislature, and the PUC. Pennsylvania’s water and sewer customers allow Canadians to live in retirement comfortably. How’s your 401k doing?
We hope you have enjoyed this walk down memory lane of 2022.
We wish a very Happy New Year to all of our CWA Supporters!
Let 2023 be the year we SAVE CWA!
In the new year, make a resolution to contact your elected officials monthly or more telling them to SAVE CWA.
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