Who Wants to Party with Aqua?

Who Wants to Party with Aqua?

WEST GROVE, PA — If you care about water in Southern Chester County and support the SAVE CWA effort, on November 3rd, vote for Chrissy Houlahan for US Congress, PA 06 and Richard Ruggieri, for PA State House, District 13.

The Chester Water Authority (CWA) is under attack by Aqua (new name Essential Utilities). Instead of taking a stand of solidarity with CWA, John Emmons, of London Grove, has decided to cozy up to for-profit water. This is reprehensible. The CWA ratepayers, in his very own community and who will be his constituents, are fighting with all their might to save CWA from privatization. By allowing and attending a fundraising event that is hosted by Nicholas DeBenedictis, Emmons is thumbing his nose at the CWA ratepayers and everything they are fighting for. It shows a true lack of leadership, lack of understanding of the ramifications of the sale, and lack of a basic grasp of rural economics.

On September 29, 2020, at a $250 to $2800 per person event, Emmons will be hosted by Nicholas DeBenedictis. Mr. DeBenedictis is the non-executive chairman of the board of Aqua America. Previously, DeBenedictis was Chairman and CEO of Aqua America (formerly Philadelphia Suburban Corporation) from June 1993 to July 2015. The company has grown considerably but according to the Utility Workers of America it “laid off UWUA (2014) members in Pennsylvania after contracting their jobs to an outside company.” The UWUA also accuses it of “having slashed pension benefits of hourly workers.”

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Invitation to Emmons Fundraiser
Invitation to Emmons Fundraiser

Emmons is not alone in his relationship with Essential. In June 2020, John Lawrence, the career politician/10-year incumbent of the PA State House for District 13, took a campaign contribution of $25,000 from Mike Turzai, who now works for Essential in their natural gas division. Why would Turzai support Lawrence in this way? Is it payment for past or future favors? Lawrence also collected a campaign contribution from Aqua in 2014 before he voted yes to the passage of Act 12 in 2016. Act 12 made it easier for municipalities to privatize water systems thus making it more attractive to potential buyers.

Higher rates, loss of access to the Octoraro Reservoir, and the loss of power over our water are all at stake for the CWA ratepayers and the community.  A rise in rates with an Aqua buyout, especially during COVID-19, will be disastrous for the community. Pizza, soda, milk, farm-grown vegetables, leases for small businesses, apartment rent, car washes, and cleaning the roads—prices of everything will go up as local government, businesses and homeowners pay more for their water. Communities, such as Oxford and West Grove and beyond, cannot afford it. These rate increases will disproportionately affect agriculture, the poor, children, and the elderly. When you serve, or hope to serve, a community, such as Oxford, where 40% of families with school-aged children fall below the poverty line, it is simply tone-deaf and one might even say brazen to so openly court a relationship with Aqua/Essential.

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The duo make it easy to follow the money when they make their associations so obvious. Do Emmons and Lawrence think the constituents are too ignorant to pay attention to their relationships with corporate cronies? Southern Chester County’s water access, water affordability, and the Octoraro Reservoir are on the ballot this year. Saving CWA is on the ballot this year. Prove to them that you are paying attention.

Vote for the two Air Force veterans who have taken an oath to their country and will take an oath to their communities that they will serve with honor and distinction. On November 3rd or by mail-in ballot, vote for Richard Ruggieri for PA State Representative and Chrissy Houlahan for US Congress. A vote for Ruggieri and Houlahan is a vote for CWA.

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Brian Hildebrandt
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Brian Hildebrandt
October 4, 2020 8:54 pm

I agree with most of what is said here. However; this situation is occurring under the watch of Houlahan so I completely disagree that a vote for her is supported by this argument. What was she doing while this legislation was being implemented to allow / ease this transaction? What has she done in response?