Mountain Water Co. has been spending big bucks on an advertising campaign vilifying Missoula’s efforts to purchase the city’s water supply.
Some not-so-subtle threats are included in the ads:
As the owners of the system, we intend to exhaust every legal avenue to protect our property and rights.
In other words, we’re going to string this out as long as possible to screw you, the citizens of Missoula. That will teach you to mess with multi-national utility companies and equity firms.
The ads also decry the huge amount of money the city has spent on attorney fees, something like $5 million. Why so much? Please re-read the block quote above.
And do you think the ploy of the international equity firm, The Carlyle Group, to sell the water company to Liberty Utilities (the new owner of Mountain Water) without PSC oversight was some half-baked scheme? Of course it wasn’t. This will just keep the sale in the courts that much longer, this time with Montanans living outside Missoula picking up the tab for extraneous PSC and court costs as the suits and counter suits wend their way through the system.
Some other scare tactics include estimates for massive infrastructure improvements, to the tune of about $6 million, the city will have to undertake. But wouldn’t Liberty Utilities have to make these same improvements? Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t. It’s not like Mountain Water has been on top of maintenance during its ownership. One expert pegs the system’s water loss at 4.6 billion gallons a year. That is not a typo.
If the improvements are to be made, it could affect rate-payer fees, whether the system is owned by the city or Mountain/Liberty. Do you believe Mountain/Liberty is going to pass these costs on to its shareholders? Hah! The repairs and upgrades need to be done. But what Missoula water users won’t have to pay for, if we eventually end up owning the system, are the profits Liberty has to make to keep the shareholders happy.
Here’s a link to one of the full page ads that have appeared in the Missoulian and Missoula Independent. There could be radio and TV advertising, too, but I don’t visit those media often. I think I saw a billboard the other day, though.
I’m thinking about making March “Don’t Pay Your Water Bill” month. Not if a portion of it is going to a marketing campaign telling me that, as a citizen of Missoula, I shouldn’t own my own water supply — that I should be at the mercy of a subsidiary of a Canadian utility conglomerate for one of the most precious resources on this planet.