Go take a hike.
That’s the crux of the Valencia Water Co.’s response to a complaint filed with the California Public Utilities Commission by a pair of local environmental groups seeking to block the water company’s absorption into the Castaic Lake Water Agency.
The CPUC regulates privately owned water utilities – which Valencia Water Co. was until Dec. 18, 2012, when a Superior Court judge approved its takeover by CLWA.
The CPUC doesn’t regulate public water utilities – which the CLWA is. And now that Valencia Water Co. is part of CLWA, the CPUC can’t tell it what to do, Valencia Water says.
“The complaint requests that the (CPUC) assert jurisdiction over an action in eminent domain in violation of the authority of the Superior Court,” Valencia Water said in the response it filed Tuesday, citing People ex rel. Public Utilities Commission vs. City of Fresno, 1967.
SCOPE and the Friends of the Santa Clarita River filed the complaint with the CPUC on Jan. 4, alleging that Valencia Water Co. had to ask the CPUC for permission before its stock could be transferred from its owner – The Newhall Land and Farming Co. – to CLWA.
That’s what it had to do in 2010, SCOPE and the Friends contend in a Feb. 18 document, when control of Valencia Water was transferred to the post-bankruptcy owners of Newhall Land.
But this time, Valencia Water is off of that hook, the water utility says, because its stock wasn’t exactly “sold” to CLWA. It was taken – and paid for – through eminent domain. Valencia Water Co., and for that matter Newhall Land, had nothing to say about it, the utility’s attorneys say.
“Valencia (Water) denies … that transfer of ownership and control of Valencia was effectuated by a sale, because CLWA acquired Valencia’s common stock in a Superior Court action in eminent domain,” the utility said.
As for the idea that the CPUC should have something to say about the composition of Valencia Water’s new board of directors, the utility said no.
“Valencia asserts that it is beyond the commission’s jurisdiction or proper concern to condition or otherwise dictate the composition of the Board of Directors of a public utility,” the utility said, inasmuch as neither CLWA nor Valencia Water, now that it’s owned by CLWA, is “a public utility subject to regulation by the commission.”
Left hanging is a question of a mystery financial backer of the water company.
SCOPE and the Friends allege that an unnamed lender of $24 million was paid off through the purchase transaction.
Valencia Water said it’s not true, and without naming the lender, said the $24 million debt is still outstanding.
Valencia Water did use the opportunity to take a swipe at SCOPE and the Friends in its response, accusing the groups of pursuing “their locally focused anti-development agenda in whatever litigation forums they believe may be available to them,” at the “ratepayers’ and taxpayers’ considerable expense.”