As Maine utility regulators consider how drought and other factors affect water utility supplies, staff at the Maine Public Utilities Commission have again requested comments and information on water supply emergencies and regulatory responses. The feedback will inform a preliminary staff recommendation to be released in January 2017, which could lead to changes in how Maine regulates water utility supplies.
Drought and water shortage are affecting parts of the U.S., including much of New England. In October, the Maine Public Utilities Commission issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) into water supply issues. The Commission requested information about water supply problems, potential solutions, and development of plans to address any problems identified. Specifically, the Commission posed 14 questions about water supply emergencies, plus 9 more questions about how the Commission should respond to water supply emergencies. The Commission requested responses to these questions by November 4, 2016.
Some Maine water utilities responded to the Commission's water supply Notice of Inquiry, but many did not file a public response. In a November 28, 2016 Procedural Order, Commission staff expressed a firm belief "that the more input the Commission receives from affected parties, the greater the likelihood that the final outcome in this Inquiry will meet the needs of those affected parties." Accordingly, the procedural order invites any entity that did not initially respond to the NOI to do so by December 23, 2016.
The November 28 procedural order establishes a schedule for the remainder of the inquiry. Staff intends to issue a Preliminary Recommendation in January, to which interested persons will be invited to respond during February, whether orally or in writing. The schedule contemplates that staff would incorporate written and oral comments regarding the Preliminary Recommendation into a Final Recommendation in March, for presentation to the Commissioners during April.
The Commission has docketed the Maine water supply inquiry as Docket No. 2016-000233.