In support of Liberty Utilities (Park Water) Corp.’s (Liberty) application to purchase the City of Perris’s (City) Municipal Water Systems, the California Water Association (CWA) submitted an opening brief on August 13. A joint opening brief, filed on the same day by Liberty and the City, also urged the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to approve the purchase.
The City’s voters passed Measure H in 2017 by a substantial margin of 63.29 percent in favor of the acquisition. The California Public Advocates Office (Cal PA), however, has opposed the proposed sale from the outset and raised objections in its opening brief that Liberty failed to adhere to statutory public notice requirements. In response, CWA’s brief noted, “Despite the indisputable result of a public election of the voters, Cal PA now raises unsupported, non-substantive arguments that would undermine the decision of the City’s residents.” CWA countered Cal PA’s procedural arguments (which asserted that Liberty’s combined reliance on direct mail to customers and the City of Perris’s website for detailed information on the proposed acquisition was not consistent with Public Utilities Code requirements) with the following facts:
- The proposed acquisition is the result of a lengthy and rigorous democratic process that must be given due weight and deference.
- The proposed acquisition complied with statutory and CPUC notice requirements.
- Cal PA’s arguments regarding notice of the acquisition are premised on strained interpretations of the statutory and CPUC requirements…there is no basis or precedent…that the requisite notice must be provided in the unduly narrow manner that Cal PA dictates.
- The obvious substantive purpose of the notice requirements…was to ensure that the public had the relevant information it needed to make an informed vote with respect to the acquisition.
- The proposed acquisition is in the public interest and supports CPUC and state policies favoring consolidation of public water systems.
CWA’s opening brief concluded, “The record demonstrates that the City and its residents would benefit greatly from the service that Liberty can offer. The CPUC should not take the City’s rigorous public process and the decision of the voters lightly. The flawed procedural arguments by Cal PA seek to undermine this mandate.”