S-0363.2/91 2nd   _______________________________________________


                                 SENATE BILL 5045



State of Washington              52nd Legislature             1991 Regular Session


By Senators Madsen, Barr and Conner.


Read first time January 17, 1991.  Referred to Committee on Energy & Utilities.Providing for investigation of consumer complaints regarding drinking water quality.

     AN ACT Relating to investigation of customer complaints regarding drinking water quality; amending RCW 80.04.015; and reenacting and amending RCW 80.04.110.




     Sec. 1.  RCW 80.04.015 and 1986 c 11 s 1 are each amended to read as follows:

     Whether or not any person or corporation is conducting business subject to regulation under this title, or has performed or is performing any act requiring registration or approval of the commission without securing such registration or approval, or is engaged in any activity subject to review or supervision under this title, shall be a question of fact to be determined by the commission.  Whenever the commission believes that any person or corporation is engaged in any activity without first complying with the requirements of this title, it may institute a special proceeding requiring such person or corporation to appear before the commission at a location convenient for witnesses and the production of evidence and produce information, books, records, accounts, and other memoranda, and give testimony under oath as to the activities being conducted.  The commission may consider any and all facts that may indicate the true nature and extent of the operations or acts and may subpoena such witnesses and documents as it deems necessary.  The commission may require that a person or corporation produce evidence to a state or local government agency for any testing necessary under this section, and that the person or corporation bear the reasonable costs of such testing.

     After investigation, the commission is authorized and directed to issue the necessary order or orders declaring the activities to be subject to, or not subject to, the provisions of this title.  In the event the activities are found to be subject to the provisions of this title, the commission shall issue such orders as may be necessary to require all parties involved in the activities to comply with this title, and with respect to services found to be reasonably available from alternative sources, to issue orders to cease and desist from providing jurisdictional services pending full compliance.

     In proceedings under this section, no person or corporation may be excused from testifying or from producing any information, book, document, paper, or account before the commission when ordered to do so, on the ground that the testimony or evidence, information, book, document, or account required may tend to incriminate him or her or subject him or her to penalty or forfeiture specified in this title; but no person or corporation may be prosecuted, punished, or subjected to any penalty or forfeiture specified in this title for or on account of any account, transaction, matter, or thing concerning which he or she shall under oath have testified or produced documentary evidence in proceedings under this section:  PROVIDED, That no person so testifying may be exempt from prosecution or punishment for any perjury committed by him or her in such testimony: PROVIDED FURTHER, That the exemption from prosecution in this section extends only to violations of this title.


     Sec. 2.  RCW 80.04.110 and 1989 c 207 s 2 and 1989 c 101 s 17 are each amended to read as follows:

     (1) Complaint may be made by the commission of its own motion or by any person or corporation, chamber of commerce, board of trade, or any commercial, mercantile, agricultural or manufacturing society, or any body politic or municipal corporation, or by the public counsel section of the office of the attorney general, or its successor, by petition or complaint in writing, setting forth any act or thing done or omitted to be done by any public service corporation in violation, or claimed to be in violation, of any provision of law or of any order or rule of the commission:  PROVIDED, That no complaint shall be entertained by the commission except upon its own motion, as to the reasonableness of the schedule of the rates or charges of any gas company, electrical company, water company, or telecommunications company, unless the same be signed by the mayor, council or commission of the city or town in which the company complained of is engaged in business, or not less than twenty-five consumers or purchasers of such gas, electricity, water or telecommunications service:  PROVIDED, FURTHER, That when two or more public service corporations, (meaning to exclude municipal and other public corporations) are engaged in competition in any locality or localities in the state, either may make complaint against the other or others that the rates, charges, rules, regulations or practices of such other or others with or in respect to which the complainant is in competition, are unreasonable, unremunerative, discriminatory, illegal, unfair or intending or tending to oppress the complainant, to stifle competition, or to create or encourage the creation of monopoly, and upon such complaint or upon complaint of the commission upon its own motion, the commission shall have power, after notice and hearing as in other cases, to, by its order, subject to appeal as in other cases, correct the abuse complained of by establishing such uniform rates, charges, rules, regulations or practices in lieu of those complained of, to be observed by all of such competing public service corporations in the locality or localities specified as shall be found reasonable, remunerative, nondiscriminatory, legal, and fair or tending to prevent oppression or monopoly or to encourage competition, and upon any such hearing it shall be proper for the commission to take into consideration the rates, charges, rules, regulations and practices of the public service corporation or corporations complained of in any other locality or localities in the state.

     (2) All matters upon which complaint may be founded may be joined in one hearing, and no motion shall be entertained against a complaint for misjoinder of complaints or grievances or misjoinder of parties; and in any review of the courts of orders of the commission the same rule shall apply and pertain with regard to the joinder of complaints and parties as herein provided: PROVIDED, All grievances to be inquired into shall be plainly set forth in the complaint.  No complaint shall be dismissed because of the absence of direct damage to the complainant.

     (3) Upon the filing of a complaint, the commission shall cause a copy thereof to be served upon the person or corporation complained of, which shall be accompanied by a notice fixing the time when and place where a hearing will be had upon such complaint.  The time fixed for such hearing shall not be less than ten days after the date of the service of such notice and complaint, excepting as herein provided.  The commission shall enter its final order with respect to a complaint filed by any entity or person other than the commission within ten months from the date of filing of the complaint, unless the date is extended for cause.  Rules of practice and procedure not otherwise provided for in this title may be prescribed by the commission.  Such rules may include the requirement that a complainant use informal processes before filing a formal complaint.

     (4) The commission shall, as appropriate, exercise auditing and accounting supervision or initiate a complaint upon receipt of an administrative order from the department, or the city or county in which the water system is located, finding that the water delivered by a system does not meet state board of health standards adopted under RCW 43.20.050(2)(a) or standards adopted under chapter 70.116 RCW.

     (5) Any customer or purchaser of service from a water system or company that is or may be subject to commission regulation or to the provisions of subsection (4) of this section may file a complaint with the commission if he or she has reason to believe that the water delivered by the system to the customer does not meet state drinking water standards under chapter 43.20 or 70.116 RCW.  The commission shall investigate such a complaint, and shall request that the state department of health or local health department of the county in which the system is located test the water for compliance with state drinking water standards, and provide the results of such testing to the commission.  The water system or company shall bear the expense for the testing.  After the commission has received the complaint from the customer and during the pendency of the commission investigation, the water system or company shall not take any steps to terminate service to the customer or to collect any amounts alleged to be owed to the company by the customer.  The commission may issue an order or take any other action to ensure that no such steps are taken by the system or company.  If the commission determines that the water does not meet state drinking water standards, it shall exercise its authority over the system or company as provided in subsection (4) of this section or as otherwise provided in this title, and may, where appropriate, order a refund to the customer on a pro rata basis for the substandard water delivered to the customer.