inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

Frustrated by Water Rate Hikes, Chester County Rep Wants Repeal of Act 12

After the passage of Act 12 in 2016, there has been a flurry of private-company purchases of publicly-owned water and wastewater systems. And there has been an accompanying flurry of higher rates for customers. Now a Chester County Republican says he has had enough.

State Rep. John Lawrence (R-West Grove) wants ratepayers to be able to vote on whether their water or sewer provider is sold and also have  “unbiased information to make informed decisions.”

Lawrence said he planned to introduce four bills that would repeal Act 12 and is circulating a memorandum to garner co-sponsors.

Act 12 permits private companies to purchase public water systems and charge residents higher fees based on the network’s appraised fair market value. In his memorandum, Lawrence said the result has been greatly increased costs for ratepayers throughout the state.

At issue, Lawrence wrote, is the way utility systems are appraised before their sale—and how the appraisers themselves are compensated.

“In a direct conflict of interest, these appraisers can get paid more if they provide a higher appraisal value to their clients,” Lawrence wrote. “Note that the law allows the Public Utility Commission to approve a different (perhaps higher) rate.

“These fees are then eventually passed along to – ratepayers.”

Lawrence told DVJournal he has “heard from many who are very concerned about municipal water and wastewater systems being sold to the highest bidder under the provisions of Act 12.”

“In particular, the proposed takeover of Chester Water Authority has galvanized folks across Chester and Delaware Counties in opposition,” he said. “I am fighting the sale of CWA both in the legislature and the courts, and these bills are the latest effort in that fight.”

CWA’s attorney Frank Catania praised Lawrence and Rep. Christine Sappey (D-Kennett Square) and Sen. John Kane (D-Chester) for their help with the issue.

“We’re in favor of his efforts because he’s letting the decisions stay with the ratepayers,” said Catania. “He’s letting them decide the issue. It’s really a bipartisan effort.”

“We’re 100 percent supportive,” said Catania.

Lawrence’s proposal would repeal Act 12 and “remove the ability of the PUC to approve a rate higher than 5 percent for these ‘utility valuation experts.'”

The legislation would also ensure that ratepayers are notified directly of any payments to estimators, requiring “that these fees be disclosed to ratepayers in a special mailing/notification.”

Currently, Lawrence wrote in the memo, ratepayers “have no ability to speak directly into the decision to sell a municipal water or sewer system.” He said his legislation will ensure “greater transparency and disclosure for those most affected – utility ratepayers.”

Act 12 has been controversial since its passage. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote in 2018 that Act 12 had set off “a feeding frenzy for public water systems” in the state.

Last year residents of Bucks County mobilized to oppose efforts by Aqua PA to purchase the county’s water and sewer systems for just over $1 billion. The county subsequently backed away from that sale, pledging instead to invest around $155 million in its aging sewer system.

A judge in February ordered a stay on the proposed sale of the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority to Aqua PA, citing the fact that “the terms of the contract [between the two authorities] remain unsettled.”

Lawrence told DVJournal his proposals “provide reform, accountability, and transparency.”

“Ratepayers should have the right to vote on any proposal to sell a municipal water or wastewater system and have reliable information about what it will cost in the short and long term,” he argued.

“Current law provides little or no opportunity for meaningful ratepayer input before the sale of municipal water and sewer systems, ” he added, “even though ratepayers are expected to pay the bill for decades to come.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

ORTITAY: Act Now to Prevent Sexual Harassment by House Members

On Jan. 27 in Philadelphia, during one of the stops of the Speaker’s Workgroup to Move Pennsylvania Forward listening tour, an allegation of sexual harassment was made against a sitting member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

It takes courage to make an allegation like that, particularly in our state Capitol against a lawmaker. I stood with and supported a victim of sexual assault when a worse situation occurred several years ago with a former member. I saw the toll it took. Unfortunately, the culture under the dome in Harrisburg has long been unsettling, even before my arrival. That needs to change. Sexual assault or harassment is something nobody should have to tolerate while doing their job.

We have an opportunity to easily remedy this now in the soon-to-be-voted House regular session rules for the 2023-24 legislative session. Last session, Rep. Kate Klunk authored House Resolution 192, which would have expanded House ethical conduct rules and procedures to sexual harassment complaints made by anyone against a member or officer of the House in circumstances related to their office or employment. Prior rules only applied when the complaint was made by a member or employee of the House.

“Justice for the victims of sexual misconduct.” That was a quote repeated over and over again in our first session week back since November 2022. Ironically, Rep. Klunk was barred from adding language similar to House Resolution 192 to the House special session rules.

As a member of the speaker’s workgroup, I feel it is important to continue to pursue this rule change so that every lawmaker is held accountable for their actions while doing their job no matter the location or with whom they may be working. As was stated in the testimony to the workgroup “harassment is not a partisan issue.”

I highly encourage the speaker and whoever is writing rules for the regular session to include the language from House Resolution 192. It will hold lawmakers accountable through the House ethics process and give both the testifier at the Philadelphia listening tour stop and the accused lawmaker an opportunity for a fair process that can deliver justice.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or