State regulators slashed a rate request by Aqua North Carolina, the state's biggest private water utility with 88,000 water and sewer customers, including more than 400 subdivisions in Wake County.
The N.C. Utilities Commission approved a 5.3 percent increase for Aqua, representing an additional $2.3 million a year in sales for the company. The rate increase approved is a fraction of the 19 percent the company had originally asked for.
The rate increase will be the company's second in three years, and the request in January elicited hundreds of objections from customers who said they couldn't afford higher utility bills in the middle of a severe economic downturn.
The Public Staff, the state's consumer protection agency in utility rate cases, conducted a months-long audit of Aqua's books and concluded that the company was entitled to a puny rate increase of 1.2 percent.
The utilities commission decision, issue late Monday, essentially splits the difference between Aqua's position and the Public Staff's. Aqua had scaled back its 19 percent request to about 10 percent last month when company officials realized they had aroused intense passions from customers and skepticism from regulators.