HARRISBURG, PA — Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved legislation introduced by Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster) that would halt the proposed sale of Chester Water Authority (CWA). Lawrence’s amendment, offered on House Bill 527, passed the House with a broad 177-24 bipartisan majority.
“This proposal ensures the board of Chester Water Authority has the tools necessary to block any attempt to sell CWA,” said Lawrence. “My amendment ends any uncertainty and would ensure the continued independence of CWA.”
Five years ago, the CWA board rejected an unsolicited $320 million takeover offer. Since then, years of ensuing litigation has focused on whether the CWA board or the city of Chester has ultimate authority to approve a sale of the water authority.
Lawrence noted his legislation attracted wide support from both sides of the aisle. “I’m grateful my colleagues in the House supported my amendment with a strong, veto-proof margin,” said Lawrence.
The vote comes on the heels of Lawrence’s recent filing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding the ongoing court case Chester Water Authority v. Aqua Pennsylvania. The case focuses on CWA’s ownership status, specifically challenging who can authorize a sale of the Authority. After courts in Delaware County initially found in favor of CWA, the appellate Commonwealth Court reversed course, ruling the city of Chester could order a CWA sale. Chester officials have repeatedly stated their desire to sell CWA to fund the near-bankrupt city.
In response to the Commonwealth Court’s ruling, Lawrence and House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) filed a Friend of the Court brief asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to take up the matter. They contend a 2012 law eliminated any ability of Chester city to order a unilateral sale of CWA.
“In my view, the Commonwealth Court erred in its decision,” said Lawrence. “It’s outrageous to suggest that Chester can assume control of CWA and sell it to the highest bidder. I urge the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to take up this matter as soon as possible.”
Founded in 1939, Chester Water Authority serves over 200,000 customers in Chester and Delaware counties. In addition to water treatment facilities, the authority owns and operates the Octoraro Reservoir, and water pipelines connecting the reservoir with the Susquehanna River and facilities in the city of Chester.
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