Yamada introduces water rate assistance legislation

Posted on January 6, 2014 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) has introduced legislation to help low-income Californians with their water bills.

Assembly Bill 1434 would require the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to extend the Low-Income Rate Assistance (LIRA) program statewide and increase the level of assistance provided to ratepayers who qualify for the Low-Income Rate Assistance (LIRA) program.

“In 2012, California established the right for every human being to safe, clean, affordable water,” said Yamada, whose 4th District includes the Sonoma Valley. “We need to work to ensure that what the state has acknowledged as a necessity isn’t priced as a luxury.”

Currently, LIRA programs are managed by individual water utilities at the direction of the CPUC, and provide water bill discounts for low-income customers. However, for those receiving assistance, discounts vary widely among utility service districts and are often so small as to be insignificant. Additionally, many smaller water companies in rural areas are exempt from providing any LIRA benefits to ratepayers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that hundreds of billions of dollars will be needed to invest in upgrading the nation’s crumbling and outdated water infrastructure throughout the next decade. A large portion of the financial responsibility of paying for these upgrades will rest with the consumer in the form of increased water rates. While the CPUC has implemented the LIRA programs in the state’s larger water utilities, rate relief is still needed for a large number of low-income Californians. This legislation will alleviate some of this burden for ratepayers.

AB 1434 is expected to be referred to a policy committee later this month.

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