PSC to consider NWI’s acquisition of Ascension sewer assets, rate adjustments

National Water Infrastructure, LLC (NWI) has filed for Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) approval of its acquisition of Ascension Parish’s east-bank sewer treatment “assets” along with an “adjustment in rates for current and acquired systems.”  PSC sanction, or non-opposition, is the final hurdle in sealing the deal worked out by between NWI and the parish, approved by Ascension’s electorate 14 months ago.

NWI’s Application recognizes that:

“Pursuant to the terms of a Sewer Conveyance and Franchise Agreement between the APG and NWI, and contingent upon LPSC approval of recovery of the Purchase Price through rates, NWI will acquire the Parish Property, as defined in the Conveyance Agreement, from the APG in exchange for payment of $9,260,000.  Upon closing of the transaction, the Parish Property will be transferred to and owned and operated by NWI.  At that point, the wastewater utility service previously provided and regulated by the APG will be provided by NWI pursuant to the jurisdiction and regulation of the Commission.”

As to the requested rate adjustments:

The monthly Residential charge for sewerage service would increase from $45.00 per month for NW1 current customers, and $42.50 for the APG customers, to $49.10 for all Residential Customers.

The monthly Commercial charge for sewerage service would increase from a minimum ÀDW rate of $55.00 per month for NW1 current customers to the greater of: (i) the Commercial flat rate of $59.10 (or the amount derived from the formula below):

Commercial Customer Rate =
Proposed Residential Flat Rate *(Sanitary
Code Daily Average BOD applicable to the Commercial Customer / 0.68
BOD pounds per day)

NWI bases its rate increase request on several factors:

  • $9.26 million Purchase Price of the APG Parish Property;
  • Approximately $1,192,872 increase in operating and maintenance costs to account for operation of the APG Parish Property;
  • Approximately $250,960 in completed and planned capital expense upgrades and improvements immediately necessary to the existing NWI wastewater system assets;
  • $1,256,616 in planned capital expense upgrades and improvements, and interconnection costs immediately necessary for the acquired APG wastewater systems; and
  • Prudent operations of combined systems.

The sales pitch as of late 2020

PSC approval would be the culmination of a lengthy process that began four years ago, when NWI’s predecessor was making its pitch to the voting public.  NWI’s registration date, according to Louisiana’s Secretary of State, is January 9, 2020.  Prior to that the conglomerate, Ascension Sewer, LLC, was the corporate entity comprised of Bernhard Capital Partners, Ascension Wastewater Treatment and two engineering firms.

Ascension Sewer suffered an ignominious defeat on December 20, 2019…

The PEOPLE won on Friday; Sewer deal DENIED, rescheduled for January 23

when a disastrous deal could muster a measly two votes during a Special Meeting of Ascension’s Parish Council; two months after six members were sent packing by the voters.

President-Elect Clint Cointment commenced actual negotiations with the Bernhard Capital contingent before he took office, the fruits of which resulted in a proposed agreement to sell off Ascension’s east bank sewer treatment assets to NWI.  The parish-owned plants operated at a significant ($4 million was the amount pitched by proponents) deficit, requiring annual subsidization.  The governing authority, i.e. the Parish Council with six new members, resolved to put the proposed agreement on the ballot during its September 17, 2020 meeting.

On April 24, 2021 the sale of Ascension’s “east-bank wastewater utility system (excluding Gonzales and Sorrento) was approved at the ballot box in a vote that also approved a Franchise Agreement with National Water Infrastructure.  7,655 Ascension Parish voters (9.4% turnout) bothered to exercise a different kind of franchise, 4,308 of them voting “YES” to finalize the deal anticipated to put $9 million or so into Ascension’s bank account, while off-loading a sewer treatment system that required millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize every year.

The deal, though, was not done by that vote since the agreement is contingent on PSC approval.