Restaurants balk at new PRASA regulatory charge
The Puerto Rico Restaurant Association raised a red flag Thursday against the decision by the Aqueduct and Sewer and Authority’s examiner to enact an Environmental and Regulatory Compliance fee based on consumption for customers whose meters are less than 2 inches in diameter, and a flat rate for those with larger meters.
“The proposal PRASA has approved goes against the proposal by the a multi-sectorial group of 16 associations and has a negative impact for some businesses, especially restaurants, some hotels and other businesses,” said Carlos Morell, president of the trade group known as ASORE for its initials in Spanish.
“This decision greatly affects a sector that creates jobs, and contributes to the island’s economic development,” he said.
The multi-sectorial group had proposed that the fee be determined based on a choice between the two options, during a one-year term. This proposal was discussed with PRASA’s management group on Nov. 4, he said.
“We left the negotiations with that option on the table,” Morell said. “They ignored the real impact of business closings, job losses, and lower possibilities of business expansions, among others. We are already blown away by the first increase in July of about 60 percent, now it would be even greater than 100 percent.”
He said the group’s alternatives would have minimized the projected impact.
Puerto Rico’s restaurant industry has about 4,500 establishments around the island, generating about 59,000 jobs annually. It contributes around $500 million to the economy and generates about $4.5 billion in sales, which translates to 6 percent of the Gross National Product.
When PRASA Executive Director Alberto Lázaro announced the examiner’s decision a day earlier, he said it would benefit “the majority of customers who fall under those sectors.”
“The hybrid alternative is very similar to that suggested by several business organizations and consists of changing from a fixed charge based on the meter’s diameter, to one based on consumption for customers with meters of 2 inches or less. Customers with a larger meter will keep their rate, but may request a review for a meter change,” Lázaro said.
As a result of PRASA’s proposal, 73 percent of business customers and 68 percent of industrial customers with meters of 2 inches or less in diameter will see a drop in their bill, he said.
Less than 1 percent of commercial customers and 14 percent of industrial clients will experience no changes in their bill. PRASA has 1,024 industrial customers and 59,132 commercial customers, Lázaro added.
PRASA’s proposed adjustments allegedly allow the agency to generate the revenue needed to comply with agreements reached with the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory agencies that are keeping an eye on the water company.