Category Archives: Utilities

Ruling unlikely to end Puerto Rico Oversight Board struggle with local government

Source: Robert Slavin, Bond Buyer, July 24, 2018 (Subscription Required)

Puerto Rico bankruptcy judge Laura Taylor Swain’s anticipated ruling on the relative powers of the Oversight Board and the local government is unlikely to end the battle for authority over the debt-burdened U.S. territory. Swain will hear oral arguments Wednesday on an adversary complaint filed earlier this month in the Title II bankruptcy case by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, in which he argued the local government can’t be forced to follow parts of the board’s fiscal plan that deal with policy. Governance issues are likely to remain whatever her ruling, observers said. … Other Puerto Rico government sectors have followed the government in filing adversary complaints challenging the board’s power. On July 9 Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and Puerto Rico House President Carlos Méndez Núñez filed a complaint similar to the governor’s. On Tuesday the biggest minority party in Puerto Rico, the Popular Democratic Party, said it planned to submit an adversary complaint on different grounds on the same day. …

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Puerto Rico governor names new utility head after board members quit
Source: Reuters, July 18, 2018
 
Puerto Rico’s governor on Wednesday named a new executive director of the bankrupt Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), following the resignation of its former head and four of the utility’s seven-member board last week.  Jose Ortiz will replace Rafael Diaz-Granados, who quit a day after being named executive director, leaving the utility with no leadership amid a massive restructuring effort following devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria last September.  Diaz-Granados and the four other board members resigned after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello blasted them for agreeing to pay Diaz-Granados an annual salary of $750,000. The PREPA board unanimously elected Ortiz, an engineer, to the post on Wednesday, Rosello’s office said in a tweet. Ortiz, the fifth PREPA executive director named since the hurricane devastated the island and its electric grid last September, is due to take office on July 23. …

Puerto Rico Bondholders Win Ruling Against U.S.
Source: Andrew Scurria, Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2018
 
A federal judge has refused to absolve the U.S. government of liability for investors’ losses on Puerto Rico bonds, a potential blow to efforts to write down the U.S. territory’s $73 billion debt load.  The ruling issued Friday by Judge Susan G. Braden of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is an incremental victory for hedge funds fighting to get repaid on the $3 billion in Puerto Rico pension bonds These creditors have targeted the U.S. directly, saying the federal government should make them whole for enacting a 2016 law that set them up for losses.  The lawsuit strikes at the heart of the rescue law, known as Promesa, designed to tackle the U.S. territory’s fiscal crisis. Promesa was designed to avoid a taxpayer bailout of Puerto Rico, creating a court-supervised process for wringing debt reductions from creditors instead. …

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MEU fails by three votes

Source: Sarah Strandberg, The Decorah Newspapers, May 14, 2018

The special election May 1 on whether the city of Decorah should be authorized to pursue a municipal electric utility (MEU) has been defeated by three votes. Following a recount Friday morning, two more “yes” votes were added, bringing the final total for the referendum to 1,385 “no” votes to 1,382 “yes” votes. Alliant Energy is the city’s current electrical provider. A citizens group, Decorah Power, asked the city to explore the possibility of a MEU. … Since the MEU was defeated, the matter cannot be brought back for a vote for another four years. … The “incredibly close” vote is a testament to the work of Decorah Power volunteers and supporters, Decorah Power volunteer Emily Neal said after the recount. … “We hope that the Iowa Utilities Board and Iowa lawmakers are paying attention to what happened here. If the role of the Iowa Utilities Board is indeed to look out for the consumers’ best interest, then the process for municipalizing needs serious reconsideration. …

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Power struggle: Iowa muni campaign heats up ahead of public vote
Source: Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network, April 9, 2018

Voters in Decorah, Iowa, will decide May 1 whether they want the city to move ahead with a proposal to leave their current electricity provider and create a city-owned utility to take its place. … According to municipalization advocates, the utility, which is based 100 miles south in Cedar Rapids, has hired a community liaison to represent it at community gatherings. … Both camps developed feasibility studies, with vastly differing conclusions. Interstate’s study found that creating a municipal utility would be very costly and raise bills for customers using the 8,100 meters in the Decorah area. Decorah Power’s consultant concluded that a city utility would serve the community well and through 2023 charge at least 4 cents less per kilowatt hour than Interstate has projected. Estimates of what the city would have to pay for Interstate’s assets and startup and application fees were similarly at odds. … The election’s outcome won’t have a binding impact but will convey the thoughts of the city’s 5,250 registered voters, including some of the 2,000 Luther College students, whose election participation is once again the source of contention. …

Iowa town’s municipal utility effort is financially feasible, consultant finds
Source: Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News, January 17, 2018

A northeastern Iowa community could lower its electric bills by creating a municipal-owned utility, according to a feasibility study presented to its city council Tuesday. Supporters of an effort to create a city-owned electric utility in Decorah, Iowa, got a boost this week from a consultant’s report that concludes the move is financially feasible. … Talk of a municipal utility surfaced after several attempts to develop renewable energy in the city ran into policies of Interstate Power and Light, the investor-owned utility that currently serves Decorah and much of the state. …

… Although the feasibility study, conducted by NewGen Strategies & Solutions and two other consultants, signaled that municipalization could work, Johnson said he’s aware of what a long and arduous process it would entail. The City of Boulder (Colo.), for example, last November approved a tax measure that will provide the funds needed to continue exploring the possibility of creating a city utility. That process began seven years ago. … Every year there are communities that start to explore creating a municipal utility to take the place of a for-profit utility, Schryver said. Although motivations tend to vary, she said that the desire for clean energy has been the main driver recently. A few new municipal utilities have taken shape lately. In California, the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, which provides water service, recently won approval from state authorities to create an electrical utility as well, meaning it will displace Pacific Gas & Electric in that locality. … Jefferson County in Washington state formed a municipal utility in 2013 to serve about 18,000 customers who formerly purchased electricity from Puget Sound Energy. Three smaller communities — two in Alaska and one in Ohio — also created new municipal utilities in the past few years, according to Schryver. Although exploration of municipalization doesn’t always result in a city-owned utility, Schryver said it can effect change in other ways. In Minneapolis, for example, efforts to depart from Xcel Energy ceased when the utility agreed to expand its clean-energy portfolio. …

The Woman Standing in the Way of the Privatization of Thousands of Jobs in Tennessee Was Just Fired

Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, May 7, 2018

A university chancellor who took a controversial stand to protect the jobs of thousands of public workers has now lost her own. University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport was abruptly fired from her post last week, in a move representatives for unionized campus workers are calling another step toward the privatization of thousands of facilities management jobs. The battle in Tennessee pits the state’s GOP governor, Bill Haslam, against its public workers, and UT-Knoxville is where the workers, backed by a student movement, have made their stand. The workers see Davenport’s firing as an effort to remove a key obstacle to privatization. …

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Public Workers Worried That Tennessee’s Billionaire Governor Is Taking Another Run at Them
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 4, 2018

Last year, Tennessee’s governor attempted a frontal assault on the unionized workers that staff the state’s facilities and management jobs at public buildings, two-thirds of which are state-run colleges. Gov. Bill Haslam, the richest U.S. elected official not named Donald Trump, signed a contract with a facilities management firm to privatize those jobs. But a prodigious campaign by the campus employee union and student activists led to nearly the entire University of Tennessee system publicly opting out of the contract. … But Haslam appears to have found a work-around. The Tennessee legislature is on the verge of passing a bill to overhaul the University of Tennessee’s entire board of trustees, allowing Haslam to hand-pick the replacements. That board could pressure campuses to opt back into the privatization contract at any time over the next four years. …

How a Scrappy Campus Union Saved Tennessee From Privatization
Source: Chris Brooks and Rebecca Kolins Givan, In These Times, March 20, 2018

… The resulting $1.9 billion contract was the largest in Tennessee government history, and privatized the maintenance and management of up to 90 percent of state-run facilities, including state and university buildings. It was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational with a history of bribery accusations. … What the privatizers didn’t plan for was the United Campus Workers (UCW), a scrappy higher education union affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Public-sector unions in Tennessee are legally barred from engaging in collective bargaining, and the state has no obligation to recognize or negotiate with them. Instead, the union relies on a mixture of legislative advocacy, workplace actions and mass mobilizations. Few unions exist in a harsher political and legal environment, yet the UCW is punching far above its weight, increasing its membership while securing victories against better-funded foes. …

Workers’ unlikely victory over outsourcing in Tennessee
Source: Elizabeth Stanfield and Jon Shefner, Facing South, February 6, 2018
 
Last fall, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 3865 (UCW) achieved an important victory for organized labor’s fight against privatization and erosion of public-sector jobs. For more than two years, they campaigned to stop Tennessee’s billionaire Republican governor, Bill Haslam, from outsourcing all state facilities service jobs. Their campaign involved multiple constituencies and tactics and played a key role in the University of Tennessee system’s decision not to participate in the outsourcing contract. The fact that this victory was won in a red state by a union without collective bargaining or dues check off is a powerful reminder of what organized workers can achieve against great odds. This victory is worth paying attention to because it reminds us that even in the face of tremendous obstacles, organized workers can win. …

University of Tennessee campuses will not outsource facilities jobs
Source: Rachel Ohm, USA TODAY, October 31, 2017

In a move celebrated by state workers on college campuses, University of Tennessee administrators announced Tuesday they will not be participating in a proposed facilities outsourcing plan pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The announcements by UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center ended more than two years of speculation about whether campuses in the UT system would participate in the plan. …

Council urges Univ. of Memphis to decline state outsourcing contract
Source: Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal, September 20, 2017

With the University of Memphis’ next Board of Trustees meeting set for early October, members of the Memphis City Council are asking that the group think twice before opting into the state’s facilities management contract. It’s no secret the University of Memphis plans to opt into the state’s property management contract, said Councilman Martavius Jones, who sponsored a resolution Sept. 19 urging local universities and their administrators to do the opposite. In May, the State of Tennessee entered into a contract with Chicago-based JLL to privatize maintenance, security, janitorial and landscaping services for state-owned public colleges and universities. “Based on my experience on the school board, the quality of the service, the cleanliness and the general morale suffered [when outsourced],” said Jones, who served on the Memphis City Schools Board from 2006 to 2013. …

Does Outsourcing Some State Jobs Save TN Taxpayers Money?
Source: Local Memphis, August 31, 2017
 
Many Tennessee lawmakers hope to see if outsourcing some state jobs actually saves taxpayers money. It’s been a controversial topic since Governor Bill Haslam began implementing the idea a few years ago.  Questions about outsourcing are always the same. Does it save money and is there accountability?  “There’s… people concerned about state jobs all over Tennessee,” said one protester.  Many state lawmakers have heard and seen the protests about the ongoing outsourcing of state jobs. That’s why a majority of legislators from both parties signed a letter of concern earlier this year to Governor Haslam. The Governor has defended outsourcing state jobs in some areas, especially on state college campuses. …

UT campus workers protest Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: WBIR, August 28, 2017

University of Tennessee Knoxville staff, faculty and students joined local business leaders, state representatives and faith leaders in a demonstration Monday to call on university officials to “opt-out” of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan. The demonstration was organized by United Campus Workers. Last week, a bill to introduce oversight in outsourcing was heard in summer study in the General Assembly. If the university were to “opt-in”, United Campus Workers believe as many as 10,000 facilities jobs, including hundreds in Knoxville, would be outsourced. Those who oppose the plan fear it will result in job loss, loss of oversight and accountability, reduced services and negative consequences for local businesses which provide services to campuses. …

Outsourcing is not working and it hurts working Tennesseans
Source: Dwayne Thompson, Tennessean, August 10, 2017
 
Since August 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has pushed a radical experiment in outsourcing that would turn thousands of state facilities workers jobs, millions of square feet of Tennesseans’ real estate, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the multinational giant JLL.   There has been widespread opposition to the outsourcing plan. Facilities services workers, faculty, and staff have significant concerns that outsourcing will compromise the quality of services on which effective teaching, research and service rely.  Students have spoken up about fears for safety if a revolving workforce replaces the workers they know and trust. …

Tennessee Inks Collaborative Facilities Management Contract With JLL
Source: Kate Vitasek, Forbes, June 29, 2017
 
The state of Tennessee has signed a facilities management contract to help the state provide the best service to citizens and employees at the lowest possible cost for taxpayers.  The contract was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) for five years with up to five one-year extensions. It allows the state of Tennessee’s various agencies and institutions to utilize JLL’s professional facilities management services. The potential scope covers over 7,500 state run properties spanning 97 million square feet. …

Controversial state plan to outsource college jobs moves forward
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 26, 2017

Tennessee moved forward with a controversial plan to outsource jobs at public colleges Friday when officials finalized a contract with a corporation that already handles a sizable amount of state business.  Under the contract, JLL — which currently manages about 10 percent of state facilities — will oversee the potential expansion of outsourcing at college campuses, state parks and prisons. It is a pivotal moment for the proposed expansion, which has been in the works for two years. …

Majority of lawmakers ask state to slow down on outsourcing
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 2, 2017

Seventy-five state lawmakers have signed a letter urging Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to postpone a plan to outsource jobs on college campuses and other state-owned property, delivering yet another blow to the controversial proposal. In the letter to Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin, signed by Republicans and Democrats from both chambers, the lawmakers ask to delay the outsourcing plan to allow “enough time to address concerns from the General Assembly.” … This is only the latest sign of deep reservations surrounding the project, which Haslam has championed against wide-ranging criticism for more than a year. Workers’ rights advocates, including a union representing campus workers, have blasted Haslam for prioritizing money over state workers and their families. College leaders have predicted the change would hurt services on campus. …

Tennessee’s billionaire governor works with his corporate buddies to privatize government jobs
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 27, 2017
 
Tennessee’s state government has inked a sweetheart deal with a company linked to the state’s billionaire governor to privatize thousands of facilities and management jobs at colleges, prisons, and other public buildings.  It’s being touted by some officials in other states as a model for the nation.  The $330 million, five-year contract covers custodial services, groundskeeping, and repair and maintenance work. Government officials say that each public facility can choose to only partially comply, or opt out, keeping their employees on the public payroll. “If they’re happy with business as usual, there’s nothing to do,” said Michelle Martin, a spokeswoman for the office that issued the contract. …

Jones Lang LaSalle Wins Bid for Haslam’s Campus Outsourcing
Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2017

Real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle has been selected as the winning bidder for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to privatize property management on the campuses of the Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (http://bit.ly/2nwO7Dh) the Chicago-based company that already manages a large number of general state government buildings beat out proposals by Aramark and Compass Group. It’s not yet clear how many campuses will choose to participate in the privatization plan. Final cost details won’t be known until the five-year contract is signed. …

Officials say state outsourcing is working, but plenty of skepticism remains
Source:Jake Lowary, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, March 8, 2017

Despite $26 million in savings reported by state administration officials, some lawmakers and state employees remain skeptical or outright opposed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to privatize many state agencies or operations within state government. Privatization of facility management, especially at public colleges and universities, has been a sort of sidecar initiative of Haslam for the past three years, in an effort to make state government more efficient and reduce costs. But many state workers still fear they will either lose their job or the areas that some have committed their lives to will suffer in quality. Larry Martin, state finance commissioner, was flanked by several officials from his department and told a Senate Oversight and Investigations Committee on Wednesday that the governor’s plan is working.

… Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said he’s not been able to fully ascertain how the state arrives at the data it does regarding its overall savings, and requested that information from Martin and Hull. He questioned the data, specifically as it relates to the labor force, where the savings have not come. … Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, also questioned the notion of privatization, saying that it’s almost impossible for the state to restart or regain the management of those services once they’ve been outsourced to private companies. Representatives from the United Campus Workers offered some of the sharpest criticism to the privatization proposal from Haslam’s office, which has yet to be finalized and was indefinitely delayed last week. Melanie Barron, an organizer with UCW, said the request for proposal laid out by Haslam is “rife with loopholes” and despite promises from Haslam and other state leaders that agencies will be able to opt out of the RFP, little clarity about how to opt out has been provided. … The RFP for public facility management, which is separate from a different RFP to manage Fall Creek Falls State Park facilities, closed at the end of February. The state intends to issue a letter of intent to award at the end of March, Martin said. …

Opinion: Outsourcing state jobs hurts Tennessee
Source: Rep. John Ray Clemmons, The Tennessean, December 20, 2016

Gov. Bill Haslam is gambling with our tax dollars and Tennesseans’ lives. His outsourcing scheme involves eliminating up to 17 percent of current state employees’ jobs at state college and universities, parks and elsewhere. Outsourcing public jobs will result in great profits for private corporations but less oversight, lower quality, and the elimination of all accountability for citizens. The tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga is an unfortunate illustration of this fact. Hamilton County Schools contracted with Durham School Services, a private company, to operate its school buses. After 36 injury crashes in Tennessee since 2014, Durham was still transporting children. … Haslam’s steadfast outsourcing efforts, in the face of statewide opposition, stand in stark contrast to his other endeavors. For instance, his administration spent 18 months crafting Insure Tennessee, a plan supported by a majority of Tennesseans. Though Haslam publicly professed a passion for the cause, he exerted such little effort behind the scenes that he willingly raised the white flag to a vocal minority within his own party after less than three days of a special session. … These lackadaisical efforts on healthcare and transportation are easily contrasted with Haslam’s exhaustive efforts on outsourcing, a solution in search of a problem. Our governor created a new office focused solely on outsourcing and focused the bulk of his energies on an effort to pay private corporations hundreds of millions of dollars to perform jobs that state employees already do well and reliably. …

Democrats Say Nashville Firm Reviewing Benefits Of Outsourcing Is Too Close To Haslam
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, December 12, 2016

Tennessee Democrats say they’re still not sold on the benefits of potentially outsourcing thousands of state jobs at college campuses, parks and prisons. They’re calling for yet another round of analysis on the proposal, even though two so far have found it could save the state more than $35 million a year. State officials were the first to come up with that estimate for what Tennessee could save from privatizing jobs currently done by public employees. But when questions were raised about their analysis’s validity, Nashville-based KraftCPAs stepped in. And after reviewing the state’s calculations for several weeks, the firm has decided Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration was more or less correct. That doesn’t satisfy state Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis. He wants an out-of-state firm brought in to take a third look. He notes that Kraft has done work for Haslam’s campaign and that some Kraft employees have made donations to it — connections, Democrats say, call Kraft’s independence into question. …

Haslam administration: Review confirms outsourcing savings
Source: Associated Press, November 22, 2016

An outside firm hired by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration agrees that privatizing maintenance work at public colleges and universities could save $35 million per year. Haslam’s outsourcing advisers and consultants have touted the outsourcing plan as a way to save money while protecting the jobs of all currently employed campus maintenance workers who are deemed to be “qualified and productive.” The outside review was conducted by KraftCPAs PLLC.

Outsourcing state services doesn’t save taxpayers money
Source: Randy Stamps, Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 19, 2016

Saving taxpayer money is the main selling point behind every proposal to outsource a state service. But, when analyzed, outsourcing is often found to be more expensive than promised. For example, in January 2012 the state paid Jones Lang LaSalle $1 million to assess the condition and management of state properties. That November, the state expanded JLL’s contract to include procuring outside leases, a job previously handled by state employees. JLL would also receive a 4 percent commission on any leases it procured. By April 2013, funding for the contract had increased from $1 million to $7.6 million. In June 2013, Tennessee signed a $330 million, five-year contract with JLL to outsource the facilities management of all state buildings. In November of 2013, the state comptroller found JLL’s contract “created an organizational conflict of interest whereby Jones Lang LaSalle can profit from its own planning recommendations.” … In 2014, the state signed a $276 million contract with Trousdale County for a 2,400-bed private prison for Corrections Corporation of America. This contract also includes a 90 percent occupancy guarantee for CCA for per diem fees, which means if the private prison doesn’t remain above 90 percent occupied, taxpayers will pay per diem fees for empty beds. The contract also guarantees annual 2.5 percent operating per diem rate increases. In contrast, state employees do not receive guaranteed pay increases. … Tragically, in July, a man committed suicide by jumping off the Tennessee Tower in Downtown Nashville. According to a WSMV report, “Security at the tower falls under the state’s General Services division. They contract with private security companies Walden Security and Allied Barton.” In August, an accident at a Tennessee county fair sent three children plummeting 45 feet to the ground, severely injuring one. The Associated Press reported, “The state relies on private inspectors hired by operators and other states’ regulators to determine whether roller coasters, zip lines and Ferris wheels are safe.” State employees used to handle this work. In conclusion, as taxpayers, we must ask harder questions and demand more oversight on any contracts that outsource a state service. The notion of cost savings from outsourcing is simply no longer credible.

America’s Richest Politician Is Putting Thousands of Jobs at Risk
Source: Donald Cohen, The Huffington Post, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump isn’t the only one who won’t release his tax returns. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, whose family owns the Pilot Flying J chain of truck stops, has refused to release his since running and being elected in 2010. It wouldn’t matter so much if Haslam were your run-of-the-mill governor. But he’s the country’s richest politician, with a net worth of $2 billion. … It matters because Haslam has a plan that could plunge thousands of state workers into poverty. Since being elected, he’s slowly handed over management and operation of public buildings to a private company. All state-owned real estate is on the chopping block—from college campuses and prisons to state parks. The company, the Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, is the world’s second largest commercial real estate brokerage. While running for office in 2010, Haslam held a financial stake in the company. He might still be invested but we don’t know for sure—he’s since placed many of his investments in a blind trust. The governor clearly hasn’t read our new report, How privatization increases inequality. …
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Mayor Curry ‘will not submit JEA privatization plan to Council’

Source: Jim Piggott, News4Jax, April 26, 2018
 
Months into a political firestorm over the prospect of the city selling the JEA, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry issued a statement Thursday morning, writing, “I am choosing to state unequivocally that I will not submit any JEA privatization plan to the City Council.” … While Curry has been consistent in his public statements that he is not pushing the agenda, members of City Council and the council auditor believe that his administration was working behind the scenes to valuate the electric/water/sewer utility for possible sale. …

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JEA names private investor, a utility newcomer, interim CEO 
Source: David Bauerlein and Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union, April 17, 2018

The JEA board of directors named a 38-year-old private investor with little experience managing a large utility the agency’s interim chief executive officer Tuesday, rejecting a bid by the finance chief to remain in the top spot, and marking a major departure from the kind of leaders JEA courted in the past. Aaron Zahn immediately assumed the interim CEO role and refused to take questions after the board meeting. The move to hire Zahn was contingent upon making a push to retain Melissa Dykes, the agency’s chief financial officer, as a high-level executive to run the day-to-day operations of the agency. Dykes, whose own bid to remain the interim CEO only garnered two votes from the five-member board, said she was open to staying but it’s not clear whether she will. …

Opinion: JEA union leaders explain opposition to sale
Source: Kathleen Crowe, Valerie Guiterrez, Rick Lehman, Ronnie Burris, Randy Hilton, April 15, 2018

Question: Would a private utility better serve the city of Jacksonville and the JEA ratepayers of Northeast Florida better than JEA? Answer: It is the official position of the JEA union leadership that a privatization of JEA would have severe, harmful and long-term detrimental economic impacts on all stakeholders. … While we have attempted to counter much of the noise regarding the privatization of JEA, there is a very simple reason for not selling JEA that overcomes all the noise. Any company or entity willing to buy JEA, whether it is $1 billion or $20 billion, must have the resources to ensure the price it pays will definitely be paid back in full with interest. This is not like selling your house for a premium and walking away with no further commitment to that house. The customers of JEA will still be on the hook for the premium paid in the initial purchase price, as well as the interest or earnings above and beyond that premium paid to the city. …

Jacksonville utility unions pan potential JEA sale as ‘harmful’
Source: A.G. Gancarski, Florida Politics, April 6, 2018
 
Even as well-connected lobbyists for major utility companies hover over Jacksonville’s JEA ahead of a potential sale, five utility unions combined in opposition to any moves Friday. Per a statement from the five unions: “It is the official position of the JEA Union Leadership that a privatization of JEA would have severe, harmful, and long term detrimental economic impacts on all stakeholders.” … Signatories include American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Jacksonville Supervisor Association, Labors International Union of North America, and the Professional Employees Association. …

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Over 1,600 towns, cities worldwide now reversing privatization

Source: Michael Makabenta Alunan, Business Mirror, February 13, 2018
 
Over 1,600 cities and municipalities in 45 countries have acted to claim back public utilities and services from private companies, of which 835 were successful cases, showing people’s initiatives to wrest control over earlier privatization moves the past two to four decades that only resulted in spiralling prices, nondelivery of services to the poor and more misery. … Significant deprivatization models and best practices worldwide were also discussed in a book, entitled Reclaiming Public Services, which is a compendium of studies documenting actual experiences from different countries and edited by Satoko Kishimoto of Transnational Institute and Olivier Petitjean. … Conference delegates told journalists that while privatization and the neoliberal policies the past decades may claim to have contributed to growth, they helped worsen global inequality. … Even in the United Kingdom where privatization started under Thatcher, there are already 64 cases of public takeovers from the private sector, called in Europe as “municipalisation” of running services for people not for profit. …

Whitefish stops work on Puerto Rico power grid over payment dispute

Source: Brandon Carter, The Hill, November 20, 2017
 
Whitefish Energy, which is under scrutiny over how it was selected for work in Puerto Rico, is halting its efforts on the island’s power grid because it says the local power authority owes it millions of dollars.  In an interview with CNN published Monday, Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski said the company is owed more than $83 million by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and is stopping work because its repeated requests for payment were not fulfilled.  “We stopped because of the financial situation, lack of payment with PREPA has gotten beyond its maximum threshold and what we can sustain as a business,” Techmankski said.  The company’s CEO said that it has employed more than 500 contractors and subcontractors on its work to restore the island’s power grid following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. …

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Ricardo Ramos, embattled head of Puerto Rico’s power utility, resigns
Source: Phil McCausland, NBC News, November 17, 2017
 
The embattled head of Puerto Rico’s power utility resigned on Friday, the latest controversy to hit the island as it struggles to bring its electric grid back online. Ricardo Ramos, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Agency, submitted his resignation to Puerto Rico’s governor’s office only a few days after he testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee over the controversial contract he approved with Whitefish Energy Holdings, a small Montana firm to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid.  A few hours after Ramos resigned, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló recommended the appointment of engineer Justo González as interim director of the public utility.

After Doomed Whitefish Deal, Puerto Rico Asks Congress for $94 Billion
Source: Frances Robles, New York Times, November 14, 2017

The governor of Puerto Rico and the chief executive of its beleaguered electric company faced hours of questioning on Tuesday in Congress, where skeptical legislators questioned whether to give the island an enormous aid package on the heels of a botched high-priced contract to fix its power grid.
Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló came to Senate and House committees with a huge ask: $94.4 billion to help Puerto Rico “build back better” after Hurricane Maria destroyed or damaged 472,000 homes and knocked out the island’s electricity. He also said that Puerto Rico should have more authority over its own fiscal affairs, and that he had “zero role” in awarding a highly criticized $300 million deal to a small Montana firm to help restore power. …

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Report: Gov. Henry McMaster considering Santee Cooper sale to help pay for nuclear project

Source: David Wren, The Post and Courier, August 8, 2017

Gov. Henry McMaster is reportedly considering selling state-owned electric utility Santee Cooper as a way to pay for at least one of two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that McMaster is “pursuing several options” to raise the money needed to finish the project, which Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas abandoned last week in the face of rising costs and the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse Electric. …

Congress must continue to block Trump plan to sell BPA

Source: Union-Bulletin Editorial Board, August 8, 2017

Late last month the U.S. House Budget Committee approved a budget resolution that rejects privatizing the transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration proposed by the Trump administration. A great move. The sooner this lousy proposal is dead the better it will be for Pacific Northwest residents who pay power bills — pretty much all of us. … President Donald Trump is calling for turning over the transmission network of power lines and substations owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that distributes most of hydropower from the Columbia and Snake rivers’ dams, to private companies. As Trump sees it, this would lower costs to taxpayers and improve efficiency. But in reality it would result in far higher rates for consumers. And putting the high-voltage grid in the hands of private investors — perhaps foreign investors — would create national security concerns. …

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Down the Mighty Columbia River, Where a Power Struggle Looms
Source: Kirk Johnson, New York Times, July 28, 2017

To ride down the Columbia River as the John Day Dam’s wall of concrete slowly fills the view from a tugboat is to see what the country’s largest network of energy-producing dams created through five decades of 20th-century ambition, investment and hubris. … Now, the Trump administration has proposed rethinking the entire system, with a plan to sell the transmission network of wires and substations owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that distributes most of the Columbia basin’s output, to private buyers. The idea is part of a package of proposals that would transform much of the infrastructure in the United States to a mixture of public and private partnerships, lowering costs to taxpayers and improving efficiency, administration officials said. Assets of two other big public power operators, based in Colorado and Oklahoma, would be sold, too, if Congress approves the measure.

Debates about government and its role in land and environmental policy are always highly charged. But perhaps nowhere could the proposed changes have a more significant impact than along the great river of the West — fourth largest by volume in North America, more than 10 times that of the Hudson. Privatization would transform a government service that requires equal standards across a vast territory — from large cities to tiny hamlets — into a private operation seeking maximum returns to investors. …

This Is How the Trump Administration Will Privatize Our Infrastructure

Source: David Dayen, The Nation, June 20, 2017
 
North Miami Beach’s Norwood water treatment plant is a major source of revenue, serving a region with almost five times as many customers as city residents…. Critics, including plant employees and members of the local Public Utilities Commission, blamed the city for intentional lack of investment and reduced staffing. “It’s on the city workers somehow that the system has fallen into disrepair,” said a spokesman with AFSCME Florida. “If you’re a journalist, and the newspaper is not making money, is that on you?” … As for plant workers, they could lose benefits under CH2M immediately, since the city’s contract with AFSCME expired in 2015. The CH2M contract calls for $2.4 million in annual savings in labor costs starting in year two. And with a fixed fee for operations and maintenance, CH2M can only extract profits and deliver long-term cost savings by cutting corners. …

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North Miami Beach Gives Public Water Utility Serving 180,000 People to Private Firm
Source: Jerry Ianelli, Miami New Times, May 17, 2017
 
None of those facts stopped the North Miami Beach City Commission last night from voting 4 to 2 to outsource its public water utility to global engineering firm CH2M Hill. From here on out, the company will control virtually every operational facet of a water plant that serves more than 180,000 people in North Miami Beach, Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach, and Miami Gardens. … On April 3, the city held a special meeting to begin formal negotiations with CH2M. In the leadup to that meeting, the city’s municipal worker’s union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, spoke out against the privatization plan as an attempt at union-busting. The ASFCME warned that privatization deals tend to lead to job or benefits cuts to workers.  Though the final contract guarantees that all city workers who pass a drug test and physical must be rehired by CH2M, the contract does not say what will happen to those workers in the following years. (During that April 3 meeting, multiple city workers accused the government of willfully underfunding the plant to create an excuse to privatize it.) …

North Miami Beach to Vote on Privatizing Its Water System Tomorrow Despite FBI Probe
Source: Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times, May 15, 2017
 
On April 3, the City of North Miami Beach started negotiating with a global engineering firm to take over the city’s water utility, which services close to 200,000 people in north Dade. Clean-water activists vehemently opposed the move, citing research that water utilities run by private companies tend to get much more expensive over time, and typically provide services at “cheaper” rates by cutting staff or services. … But those facts have not mattered at all to North Miami Beach’s elected officials. Tomorrow, the city commission will vote on whether to hand the utility’s operations over to CH2M Hill Engineering for an annual fee of $18.8 million per year. (The city would retain ownership of the utility, but CH2M would handle the plant’s day-to-day operations. The city will also pay CH2M $19.3 million in the first year to cover startup costs.) …

North Miami Beach Moves Forward With Water-Privatization Deal Despite FBI Probe
Source: Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times, April 4, 2017

At the beginning of North Miami Beach’s meeting last night about a plan to privatize its water system, City Manager Ana Garcia asked residents to trust the city based on the commission’s track record. That was an odd appeal, considering Mayor George Vallejo is the subject of an ongoing Miami-Dade County criminal probe and the FBI and Miami-Dade County Public Corruption unit have launched investigations into the water negotiations. Despite all of those red flags, commissioners voted 4-2 last night to move forward with the plan after a testy meeting that lasted close to three hours. … The city also did not disclose that an affiliate of the leading company bidding for the project, global engineering firm CH2M Hill, has held a temporary contract to operate portions of the plant since October 17, 2016. The contract raises additional questions as to whether the city’s bidding process has been fair. … The vote authorizes the city to begin negotiating a contract with CH2M, which is angling to take over the full operation of the city’s water plant.

… Per the terms of the city’s request for quotation, the private company is expected to take over full plant operations and take over the contracts of every employee at the utility. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a union that represents the utility workers, says roughly 80 employees could be affected. The union warned last week that privatization deals tend to lead to benefit cutbacks and employee layoffs as the new company tries to cut costs. AFSCME does not have an active contract with the city, and union representatives warned last week that, without a contract, a private company could cut benefits and salaries from day one. …

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Lexserv to Temporarily Shut Down While City Takes Over Service

Source: WTVQ, May 8, 2017

A temporary shutdown of the LEXserv online and phone bill payment system has been scheduled as Lexington’s Division of Revenue takes over the service from Greater Cincinnati Water Works. Beginning May 15, the city will manage all LEXserv customer service and billing services, eliminating the need for outsourcing. Officials say some of the many benefits include:

  • City will save taxpayer dollars by moving system in-house;
  • Customer service will be handled by LFUCG staff in Lexington, creating jobs;
  • Payments will be mailed to a Lexington address for processing;
  • New web portal for customers to make payments, review billing. …