Water in the News: Water Treatment Plant #4 Commissioned

Taps flowing, but is there demand for Austin’s WaterTreatment Plant 4?

By Andra Lim – American-Statesman, Posted: 8:35 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

At the grand opening Friday for a water treatment plant in West Austin, a trio of city officials raised their glasses and said “cheers” to a project that has often been the target of jeers.

Even as city officials toasted the facility Friday, they also admitted that the water demand projections that helped persuade a slim City Council majority to approve building the plant in 2009 didn’t come true.

The last thing Austin needed to do was build a half-billion-dollar water treatment plant at this time,” environmental activist Paul Robbins said. “We are up to our gills in overcapacity. No pun intended.”

Energy in the News: Utility discounts may be going to people who don’t need them

Utility discounts may be going to people who don’t need them

By Sophia Beausoleil, KXAN, Updated: December 1, 2014, 9:22 pm

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Keeping the lights on can be pricey, and that’s why Austin Energy created the Customer Assistance Program to help reduce utility rates for low-income consumers. But the discounts may not be going to the people who need them.

“I was particularly astounded when I started seeing $1 million homes and $4 million homes on the list and I knew the system needed to be corrected,” said Paul Robbins who has been a consumer advocate and environmental activist in Austin for 37 years.

Robbins said he had heard there were problems with the new automatic enrollment system and decided to check it out for himself. He put in a public information request for the participants in the Customer Assistance Program, reviewed their real estate assets and determined more than 1,100 customers in homes valued more than $300,000 were receiving utility discounts.

Energy in the News: Why Austin utility bill discounts aren’t just going to the poor

Why Austin utility bill discounts aren’t just going to the poor

By Lilly Rockwell – Austin American-Statesman, Posted: 12:01 a.m. Monday, Dec. 1, 2014

As a luxury home builder, Majd Hinedi lives in pretty nice digs himself. His 6,315-square-foot West Lake Hills home is valued at $1.2 million and sits in a cul-de-sac. According to online real estate database Zillow, it has five bedrooms, a pool and a guest house.

But…He is getting a discounted rate on his water, wastewater and drainage fees by being part of Austin Energy’s “Customer Assistance Program,” which is designed to give reduced rates and fees to low-income customers.

An analysis of water and drainage customers on the Customer Assistance Program by activist and consumer advocate Paul Robbins, who obtained the information through an open records request, shows that more than 1,100 people in this program — about 6 percent of the recipients — have homes valued at more than $300,000.