Citizens deal is working

Keywords Opinion

Recently, Citizens Energy Group received regulatory approval to raise rates [April 23 IBJ] to continue updating the community’s aging water and wastewater systems.

When Citizens acquired the city-owned water and wastewater systems in 2011, hundreds of water main breaks were flooding streets and interrupting service to thousands of homes and businesses, wasting billions of gallons of water. At the same time, the sewer system was discharging 6 billion gallons of raw sewage to the White River and other area streams.

The Indy Chamber supported Citizens’ acquisition of the water and wastewater systems because of its century-long track record of operating the gas utility as a public trust. Today, we stand by that endorsement because Citizens is bringing water and wastewater systems up to 21st century standards, a critical priority for continued economic competitiveness and a more livable community.

Some of the systems were installed when Ulysses S. Grant was president. In just the past three years, Citizens has invested $600 million to begin reducing wasteful water main breaks, while cutting raw sewage overflows to waterways by one-third.

As Citizens tackles the daunting challenge of updating these systems, we should remember that it is not a traditional city-run utility, but rather a complex regional utility provider. The improvements are creating thousands of jobs, while helping revive the economic vitality of Indy’s urban core. At the same time, the utility is expanding the water system and securing the necessary water supply to meet the needs of our growing suburbs.

We are also seeing Citizens apply private-sector efficiency and entrepreneurship across its operations to benefit customers and the community. Through initiatives such as combined billing, Citizens has far exceeded its goal of $60 million in annual savings. Citizens also has the ability to operate new for-profit ventures such as Kinetrex Energy, the leading liquefied natural gas provider in Indiana, to generate revenues that are reinvested to help low-income customers and fund economic development projects.

Most Indianapolis employers and civic-minded residents understand that dependable water and wastewater systems are vital to attracting people, businesses and capital. Citizens has proven over the past three years that the public trust created 127 years ago is doing exactly what it was designed to do—improve quality of life and promote economic vitality.

Michael Bosway, chairman
Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce

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