Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has filed a motion calling for a system to protect low and moderate-income households from unaffordable sewer rates that are scheduled to increase 34 percent in the coming years as the Narragansett Bay Commission embarks on more than $700 million in infrastructure upgrades including phase three of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) program.
"Every Rhode Islander deserves access to reliable public utilities and I strongly support the completion of CSO phase three. Families who are already struggling to make ends meet should not be driven into poverty by their sewer bill," said Treasurer Magaziner. "I look forward to working closely with the Narragansett Bay Commission and community partners to find a solution that allows the CSO project to move forward and protects ratepayers from unaffordable cost increases."
According to a 2017 affordability study, the planned upgrades are expected to increase the average household's sewer costs to $643 per year by 2025. Such an increase would result in more than one-third of ratepayers' sewer bills exceeding two percent of their annual income, a federal affordability threshold.
Treasurer Magaziner, who chairs the state's Public Finance Management Board, filed a motion to intervene in the Public Utility Commission's annual rate setting process, citing concerns over ratepayer affordability. The Treasurer's Office has engaged the Narragansett Bay Commission and advocacy groups representing ratepayers to develop a solution that protects low and middle-income ratepayers from unaffordable sewer costs
"Completing the CSO project is one of the largest and most important infrastructure projects in our state's history. A clean bay has a positive impact on our environment, economy and quality of life in the Ocean State," said Treasurer Magaziner. "I am grateful to the Narragansett Bay Commission, who have been excellent partners in our discussion around how to keep rates affordable for all Rhode Islanders."
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