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Industry Updates: WWA Policy Watch

Wisconsin Water Policy Watch Volume 10 Issue 6

Thursday, April 9, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Michael Heyroth
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Wisconsin Water Policy Watch
 
A Legislative and Regulatory Newsletter
 
 
Deadline is 1:30 pm this Friday to submit comments on PSC emergency order
 
At its March 22 meeting, the PSC formally approved two emergency orders and later opened up both orders for public comment.The emergency order in Docket 5-IU-120 is open for comment until tomorrow, Friday, April 10 until 1:30 pm.
 
Keeping in mind that any public utility may submit a request to modify the requirements in Emergency Order #11 with respect to specific situations, the emergency order in Docket 5-IU-120:
 
  • Suspends all disconnections and disallows refusing service to customers for any reason except to prevent a dangerous situation.Exceptions must be requested.
 
  • Suspends the proof of identity requirement for service; utilities may ask, but may not refuse to connect for failure to provide documentation.
 
  • Requires utilities to offer deferred payment agreements and budget payment plans to all customers (residential and nonresidential) with the exception that any existing utility tariff related to tenants may remain in effect.
 
  • Suspends late fees.
 
  • Suspends deposits as a condition of new service.
 
  • Allows utilities to waive credit card convenience fees after seeking a waiver from the PSC.
 
 
Comments are to be filed through the Commission’s Electronic Filing (ERF) System.Address comments to Steffany Powell Coker, Secretary to the Commission; Public Service Commission; P. O. Box 7854; Madison, WI53707-7854.Go here for the Notice Of Investigationdated March 24, 2020 for more detail about the questions the PSC is asking commenters to respond to.
 
Governor Tony Evers signed Emergency Order #11 on March 22, which empowered the PSC to suspend certain PSC administrative rules and issue orders necessary to respond to Wisconsin’s public health emergency.PSC Chair Rebecca Valcq’s recommendations were incorporated by reference into the governor’s order.
 
 
PSC creates a FAQ page for utilities
 
The Public Service Commission has created aFrequently Asked Questions Pagefor utilities that is accessible from its website homepage.The homepage also prominently displays a button forconsumers seeking utility service helpthat leads to a phone number for the consumer affairs team.
 
 
PSC reminds utilities of opportunity to waive credit card fees during the health emergency
 
At the April 8 Water Utility Stakeholders conference call, Denise Schmidt, PSC division administrator, Division of Water Utility Regulation and Analysis, reminded participants of the opportunity to waive credit card fees during the health emergency.
 
Providing customers with the option to pay by credit card is available without any special permission from the PSC.However, PSC permission is required to offer a waiver of transaction fees.A utility would use the ERF system to file an application for each service type (water, electric, gas) seeking the waiver.A more complete explanation is available on theFrequently Asked Questions Page for Utilities.
 
Schmidt says the process takes only two to three days.For additional assistance, utilities may use theUtility Inquiry Line:PSCRecordsMail@wisconsin.govor call 608-266-3766
 
 
AWWA-Wisconsin Section website has member forum on COVID-19
 
Do you have a question about handling the current health emergency?AWWA-Wisconsin Section has opened aCOVID-19 Forumon its website for our members to pose questions and get answers.
 
 
DNR continuing to work on the PFAS rulemaking during the health emergency
 
In a conversation with Wisconsin Public Radio, Jim Zellmer, deputy division administrator, DNR Environmental Management Division, said this week that DNR continues to work with the Department of Health Services to develop standards for PFAS chemicals.Zellmer said, “We need to do what we can and continue to conduct our business as we can throughout this period.”
 
 
DNRDrinking Water and Groundwater Program creates COVID-19 resource webpages for public water systems
 
The DNR Drinking Water and Groundwater Program has created a webpage entitled,"COVID-19 Response, Questions and Guidance for Public Water Systems"to consolidate all information and resources that public water systems might need to respond to the COVID-19 health emergency.
 
The page includes links to state and national resources, guidance on general operations, monitoring, inspections, plan review, and a page for consumers. Additionally, the page has a section addressing Frequently Asked Questions.
 
The DNR is recommending that public water utilities check this site routinely for updates and new information.
 
The DNR has created another webpage entitled"COVID-19: Environmental Compliance Process."This page spells out how the DNR ishandling its duties under the law during this time. According to the site, "All state statutes and regulations remain in effect unless otherwise suspended by the governor, and all entities should make every effort to comply with their environmental compliance obligations. Where full compliance is not reasonably practicable, Wisconsin DNR is providing a case-by-case request process...to grant regulatory flexibility, where possible."
 
Under Gov. Evers'Safer at Home orderthe DNR will prioritize responding to imminent threats or complaints related to public health, safety and the environment over routine, on-site audits and inspections.
 
DNR has also created an email water utilities should use if they have COVID-19 questions. Send email toDNRDrinkingWaterCOVID-19@wisconsin.gov
 
For more information, see thispress releaseexplaining current policies and providing additional COVID-19 resources released on April 3 by Darsi Foss, Environmental Management Administrator,darsi.foss@wisconsin.gov,(608) 267-6713 and James Zellmer, Environmental Management Deputy Administrator,james.zellmer@wisconsin.gov,(608) 267-7651.
 
2019-2020 Legislative Session Watch List
Unless a special or extraordinary session is called, this session of the legislature is over.
All bills that have not received approval by both houses are now likely dead.
 
 
Creates local government grants for private well testing. Expands eligibility for mitigation grants for well owners and renters.
 
Status:In Committee.
 
 
Establishes groundwater quality standards for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)
 
Status:Assembly Committee held hearing on April 4, 2019.
 
Contracts with a third party to provide a system for buying and selling water pollution credits.
 
Status:Enacted into law on March 3 and published March 4, 2020
 
 
Creates an incentive for property owners to abate lead hazards in their
residential properties.
 
Status:In Committee.
 
 
Requires day cares, group homes and recreational camps to test drinking water sources as a condition of licensure.
 
Status:The Senate passed it on January 21 and messaged it to the Assembly. Assembly did not schedule it for a vote.
 
Requires K-12 schools receiving federal funds to test drinking water for lead contamination at least once every three years.
 
Status:Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy approved the substitute amendment version on a 5-0 vote on January 22. Failed to pass on April 1 pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 1.
 
 
Restricts use of Class B acqueous film forming foams (AFFF)
 
Status:Enacted into law on February 5 and published February 6.
 
 
Expands Clean Sweep program to include PFAS
 
Status:Assembly passes.Failed to pass Senate on April 1 pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 1.
 
Empowers DNR to set PFAS environmental standards, restrict use, and set up PFAS grant programs for municipalities
 
Status:Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee approved on a 4-1 vote on February 11.
 
 
Creates funding for various PFAS testing and remediation activities called for in other legislation.
 
Status:Senate committee approves on a 4 - 1 vote on February 11.
 
 
Establishes PFAS management zones with special requirements and funding.
 
Status:Public hearing held on February 7.


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