FRANKFORT — A citizen's group trying to derail a new Kentucky American Water plant and pipeline had its day in court Monday.
Tom FitzGerald, an attorney for Citizens for Alternative Water Solutions, told Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd that the case is a tale of two cities.
Louisville has a virtually inexhaustible supply in the Ohio River, he said, and excess treatment capacity. Lexington needs more supply and capacity at Kentucky American Water's plant on Pool 9 of the Kentucky River.
The state Public Service Commission erred in allowing Kentucky American to build a $162 million plant downriver from Pool 9 and a pipeline to carry the water to Lexington, FitzGerald said.
CAWS argues that the project is too expensive, and that the PSC should have looked closer at conservation, fixing leaking pipes and a running pipeline from Louisville. It wants the project, now 70 percent complete, to be stopped.
It that doesn't happen, FitzGerald said, the Lexington-based utility will prosper at the expense of its customers.
"It is indeed the best of times for Kentucky American Water's shareholders and the worst of times for Kentucky American Water's ratepayers," FitzGerald said.
But attorneys for the PSC, Kentucky American and the state attorney general's rate intervention office disagreed.
PSC attorney Gerald Wuetcher said his agency had gone to extraordinary lengths to solve a Central Kentucky water supply issue that been before it off and on for more than 20 years.
The PSC asked Kentucky American to supply records on every possible alternative to the new plant and pipeline, he said. It even used the state Open Records Act to get the same information from the Louisville Water Co., which responded by trying to get a pipeline from Louisville approved instead of the Kentucky American project.
Wuetcher noted that the PSC spent well over a year on the case, collecting more than 40,000 pages of information before rendering its 90-page decision in April 2008.
"The commission has made every step procedurally to try to find the answer" to getting more water for Lexington, he said.
David Spinard, who represents the attorney general's rate intervention office, said it was unusual for him to be in court on the same side as the PSC, and even more unusual to be on the side of Kentucky American.
But, he said, his office had fought for 17 years to find a solution to Lexington's water shortages and believes it found the best deal for the people paying water bills.
Attorneys in the case had been willing to forego oral arguments, but Shepherd, the judge, said he wanted to hear them, and ask questions.
Shepherd interrupted the attorneys more than 20 times, mostly to ask what standard the PSC uses to decide whether a project is necessary, and how future water demand projections are reached.
In response to a question about the state of the project, Kentucky American attorney Lindsey Ingram III said of the 112 easements it needed for the pipeline route, it had 108. The others are held by two landowners, he said.
Another judge has ruled that Kentucky American has the right to use condemnation to get the easements, but said that ruling won't take affect until the case heard Monday is decided.
Shepherd said he will decide as soon as he can, but wasn't specific.